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Back in the day, the red building was Ella’s pizza shop (in Emo, Ontario).  The Pizza Pantry was painted white and locals often just called it Ella’s.

Ella Carruthers ran the pizza shop in town.  I remember stopping in with my parents to place an order.  Her shop was a tiny little building that sat on Front Street.  It was always busy with people coming in and out.

I don’t remember Ella as a frail little lady.  She was hardworking and didn’t put up with much.  She was petite, had white hair, and I remember her in a white apron with her shoulders hunched a bit.  And it was her voice that I remember most.

Ella was once our supply teacher.  I was in grade 8 and thought it was strange that the pizza lady was our teacher for the day.  Didn’t they have anyone else?  Seriously, is our town so small that they need to get the pizza lady when we need a teacher?  

We began our day singing Oh Canada.  I can still remember this 25 years later.  The song played over our PA and Ella quickly joined in to sing.  It was… something else.  Her voice went up and down in places it shouldn’t.  The key changed constantly. And none of us dared to let out a giggle.

Thinking back now, I love that she belted it out.




Wednesday, Mar 31, 2004

Ella Mary Carruthers, 77, of Emo, Ont., passed away Sunday, March 28, 2004 at La Verendrye General Hospital in Fort Frances, Ont.

She was born Nov. 25, 1926 in Emo to Melvin and Winnie French. She was raised in Emo and after high school, attended Normal School in Thunder Bay. She taught in schools throughout the district for 40 years, at first as a full-time teacher and later as a substitute teacher.

She was united in marriage to Albert Carruthers on Aug. 18, 1947 and together they had 12 children.

She worked for many years with home care through the Red Cross and had also cleaned for the Fairway Store. She also operated the Pizza Pantry on Front Street in Emo for many years.

Ella was famous for her homemade buns that she had available for customers, receptions, and functions.

Ella was a member of the Women’s Institute, the Emo Hospital Auxiliary, and the Emo Fair Board. She loved her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, and could be found at dance recitals, hockey games, and school concerts supporting her family.

In 2003, she was very proud to be selected as Senior of the Year for Emo for her years of service to the community. Ella was a generous women who was constantly helping family and friends, and enjoyed visiting with everyone.

Ella leaves behind her 11 children, Vivian Callaghan (Ed Kivimaki) of Fort Frances and her son, Kurt Callaghan; Gerald (Carol) of Lethbridge, Alta. and children, Carrie, Kellie, Penny, and Danny; Jim (Kay) of Fredericton, N.B. and son, Pat; Mary (Bruce) Martin of Fort Frances and their children, Michael, Sonnie, and Brittany; Norma (Wes) Blight of Sleeman, Ont. and their children, Shauna (Andreas) Runesson, Trina Blight (Kyle Langlais), and Fred of Mississauga, Ont., and his daughters, Jody, Amanda, and Vanessa; Dave (Diane) of Thunder Bay and their children, Mike, Al, and Melanie; Nancy (Don) Rivest of Gillam, MB and their children, Kyle, Erin, and Dena; Dianne (Russ) Nordstrom of Devlin and their children, Ashlee and Cory; Karen (Andrew) of Toronto; and Brian (Wanda) of Markstays, Ont. and their children, Breanna, Travis, and Dylan.

Also surviving are her brother, Willard French; as well as numerous great-grandchildren; brothers- and sisters-in-law; and nieces and nephews.

She was predeceased by her parents, Winnie and Melvin French; infant daughter, Susan; grandson, Christopher Scott; brother, Edwin French; sister, Iva Brown; twin brother, Elmer John as an infant; and son-in-law, Tim Callaghan.

A visitation will be held Wednesday, March 31, 2004 from 6:30-7:30 p.m. at Knox United Church in Emo.

Funeral services will be held Thursday, April 1, 2004 at 10 a.m. at Knox United Church in Emo, with Rev. Barbara Miller officiating.

Cremation will take place at Riverside Crematorium in Thunder Bay, Ont., with interment in the Chapple Cemetery at a later date.

The pallbearers will be her grandsons, Kurt Callaghan, Kyle Rivest, Andreas Runesson, and Kyle Langlais, and friends, Larry Kellar and Nevin Bonot.

The honourary pallbearers will be Glen Cameron, Annie Advent, Jim and Liz Wilson, and Karen and Ed Kuitunen.

If friends so desire, in memoriam donations may be made to Emo Knox United Church Building Fund, Canadian Diabetes Association, or the Emo Hospital Auxiliary Projects Fund.



It’s interesting to live in a small town where you think you know everyone.  I read Ella’s obituary and felt like I got to know her better.

I felt like a jerk for laughing about her supply teaching days.  I had no idea that she went to school in Thunder Bay to be a teacher.  I also had no idea that she had 12 children. We have 3 children and I’m about to lose my mind.  I recognized the names (Russ) and Dianne Nordstrom of Devlin; I didn’t even realize that Ella was Dianne’s mom.

Ella was someone’s Mom.

Writing about Ella has taught me to be sensitive and tactful when writing about another person’s loved one.  I need to write as though their relatives are reading.

It’s not like I would write anything mean.  I was just going to write funny memories about this character of a lady in our small town.  Ella, the pizza lady, who was our supply teacher one day. And then I read her obituary and saw her as a person.  A mom to 12 kids. No wonder she worked so hard. And kids living across the country. I wonder what it was like for her to be in Emo on her own.

I wonder if we knew each other’s stories (instead of thinking we already do), would we be more patient and understanding of one another.  I know it sounds a bit hokey, but really, I think it’s worth thinking about…


If someone from back home is reading this and has a great story to share about Ella, please share!  Just add a comment below.