My Story - Ann-Louise Branscombe
Mother’s Inspiration Leads to Legacy Gift
Ann-Louise Branscombe was the picture of class and contentment as she reflected on her commitments and involvement with the Niagara Community Foundation. Sitting comfortably in her yellow garden room overlooking the beautiful Niagara River in Niagara-on-the-Lake, she shared her family background, challenges and the inspirations that led to her giving back to her community. She enjoyed connecting her past and the intertwining of her own growth and challenges with the spirit of community and giving, knowing that it would and has made a difference in both her life and the lives of others. It is very special to Ann-Louise that she could do so while also honouring her Mother.
Ann-Louise’s family background reaches from the northern Ontario region of Sudbury to the southern area of Niagara Falls. While she is a proud Canadian, her Mother, Elvi Vicary, had roots in Scandinavia. Elvi was originally from Finland coming to Canada in 1913 when she was four years old as one of five children. Life in the mining area of Sudbury/Copper Cliff was tough. The family had come with nothing to this bleak landscape and all worked very hard to build their new life in their new country. Amid the many challenges Ann-Louise’s Grandmother faced was to be widowed early and left to raise five children. Elvi knew what it was like to struggle and work hard growing up to help her family.
Ann-Louise’s Father, Don Vicary, originally from St. Thomas, had gone to work during the depression in the mines in Copper Cliff. It was during his time working there that he met Elvi. They married in 1940 and then decided to relocate to Niagara Falls where Don’s family was then located. It was a natural move for Elvi and Don to settle in Niagara Falls where he became involved in the insurance business.
Elvi was trained as what we would refer to today as a dental hygienist but did not pursue a career once her family arrived. She became a full time, stay at home Mother of two girls and a boy.
Elvi was a kind, caring Mom who was a great role model to Ann-Louise. She was a dedicated supporter of her children and she enabled them to always make their own choices. She took great pride in her Finnish heritage. She followed many of the Finnish traditions and kept in touch with other Finnish families in Sudbury.
Ann-Louise likes to return to the Sudbury area and enjoys reminiscing about magical times at the camp at Clearwater Lake.
Ann-Louise was inspired by both of her parents volunteering in the Niagara Falls community. They were both members of the Lions Club where they assisted in raising funds in many different ways. The Lions’ efforts raised money for the blind. Ann-Louise still recalls her Mother selling brooms made by hand by the blind. She fondly remembers that they were proud to help their community while working and bringing up their own family. If her Mother was an inspiration with her pragmatism, her Father, who died way too young, was equally an inspiration with his love and his unfailing optimism. They were a great combo as parents.
Ann-Louise grew up in Niagara Falls where she attended elementary and high school. She was pleased to receive a scholarship from Provincial Gas Company. She applied it to attend University of Toronto, where she received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Home Economics. In total, she spent six years in Toronto furthering her education and working. While in Toronto, through an introduction by mutual friends, she met her future husband, Paul Branscombe. Although they were both from Niagara Falls, they had not known one another locally. There was a lot of travelling back and forth to London, Ontario where Paul was attending the University of Western Ontario. They both returned to Niagara Falls where their families were living. They married and raised their children in Niagara Falls where Ann-Louise applied a lot of the parenting skills that she had observed and learned from her parents.
Her own scholarship experience from Consumers Gas Company set an early understanding of the importance of helping others to reach their educational goals through financial gifting.
Ann-Louise had a happy marriage and focused her early years in raising her children while faced with personal challenges. She was a widow at an early age and worked hard dealing with the challenges of being a single parent.
Her first experience with charitable work was through the highly respected Branscombe Family Foundation. Ann-Louise has been on the Board of Directors of the Branscombe Family Foundation since its inception. She was inspired by her father-in-law Frank Branscombe, who started the Family Foundation (1977). The family foundation’s current objectives are to assist with education, health care and social well-being across Niagara. While she is still active with this family foundation she is pleased to see the next generation of the family getting involved. Ann-Louise aspires to reach out beyond this involvement and embraces and respects the community foundation.
Ann-Louise’s next board appointment came when she was asked to serve on the Greater Niagara General Hospital (GNGH) Board of Directors. She served for six years and found this experience was very rewarding. This led her to want to reach out beyond Niagara Falls and become more involved in the broader region of Niagara. She served on the Board of Family and Children’s Services (FACS) for ten years. She wanted to serve on FACS because of the great work being done for children and families in the Niagara Region. She was ready for a new challenge.
In 2000, John Potts approached Ann-Louise to be on the original board of Niagara Community Foundation. She sat on many foundation committees over the years including the Executive Committee and Cuvee as well as proudly serving as President.
Following in her Mother’s strong spirit, she continued to challenge herself and keep involved with her community and offering the help she felt she could best give.
When Ann-Louise’s Mother, Elvi Vicary, died in 2002, she wanted to honour her and keep her memory alive in the spirit of her warm and giving personality. She created an endowment fund at the community foundation that is in her Mother's name.
Ann-Louise chose the community foundation for her donation due to its flexibility in allowing her to personalize this legacy to her Mother. The Elvi Vicary Fund could be used for something specifically designated or it could be put within the larger component. The community foundation is an organization that she can donate to on a yearly basis knowing that the endowment is ongoing and that the original donation is not gone. It allows for a long lasting legacy in her Mother’s honour.
She feels very comfortable with the fact that the structure of the foundation is built from the history and successful strategies of community foundations that are all over the world.
Ann-Louise wishes to continue her pattern of giving through a bequest through the community foundation. This would continue to support her existing seven charities with each receiving a percentage of the earnings. A new fund will be created in her name with this bequest, separate from the existing Elvi Vicary Fund.
Ann-Louise reflects that the most significant events in her life include her marriage and the birth of her children. She is glad that her community life is not as time consuming now and that there is more time to be planning and doing things with her family. She is happy that the next generation has integrated into the family foundation. She loves her role as Nanna and would like to spend more time with her grandchildren. She loves planning family events, big and small, for both her immediate and extended families whether they be reunions, birthdays or special holiday times.
Ann-Louise feels that the legacy for her and her family is to know that she had done something that mattered-- not necessarily in a big way but to the people that she loves and the people she would help care for.
In thinking of how she might like to be remembered by society, she paused and then asked herself the question, “Will society remember me???”
She would hope individual people rather than society remember her. Individual experiences are very important to her. She would also hope that people remember the times that they spent together and the things that they did together. Ann-Louise believes, “No one achieves things on their own –achievements are a collaboration of influence and cooperation from parents, friends, teachers, colleagues, children and grandchildren.”
Ann-Louise hopes she has enabled her children and grandchildren to make their choices as she has been able to do.
Story as told to Debi Pratt in 2015