March 26, 1919 - December 28, 2016
Elizabeth Ella Riley (Holden). March 26, 1919 – December 28, 2016
Elizabeth, age 97, died peacefully with dignity and courage at the Ottawa Civic Hospital after suffering an acute stroke on December 12, 2016. She lived a long, full and vibrant life. She is survived by George, her loving and devoted husband of 69 years and her sons Simon and Mark (Ann Simpson), daughter Susan (Bruce Milley), grandsons Jonathan Guilbault (Dragana) and Michael Guilbault and great-granddaughter Samantha.
Born and raised in London, England she was a proud veteran of World War II having volunteered at the outbreak of the war in 1939. She joined the WAAF and was trained as one of the first radar operators and posted to a RDF station in southeast England during the Battle of Britain. In addition to tracking enemy planes on radar she was trained to help with calibrating the newly constructed RDF station’s equipment. Known as a ‘calibod’ she became the first WAAF to be issued a pair of trousers to climb the RDF station’s 250 foot towers to a platform to take bearing readings. While stationed in Downderry, Cornwall she met her future husband, George, a mining engineer. They were married on March 1, 1947.
George accepted a new employment opportunity in Canada in mid 1948 and she followed five months later with their first child, Simon.
She joined the Federal Government in 1964 and worked in the Treasury Board and then the Public Archives and National Library until her retirement in 1985.
Their adventuresome spirit and remarkable health took them to exotic and remote parts of the world in their retirement years. This included Lhasa, Machu Picchu, Petra, Dubai, Japan, China, Africa, India, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, Europe and South America. Until recently, they remained active while cruising the world and spending their winters in Delray Beach, Florida.
She was a strong and independent woman who encouraged those around her to voice their opinions and to stand up for their convictions as she so often did. She was always up for a lively discussion or debate.
As a humanist, she contributed to many charities and believed that all people should be treated with respect, dignity and equality. As an environmentalist, she saw the need for environmental protection and action decades before it became a recognized global problem.
She loved listening to opera, going to the ballet, watching her favorite tennis players on TV and doing her Word Searches.
She passed to the sounds of Pavarotti while embraced by the love of her family.
Many thanks to the doctors and nurses on the 7th floor Neurological Unit at the Civic Hospital for their support and compassionate care. There will be a private family gathering and interment. Donations to University of Ottawa Heart Institute would be appreciated.