Donor Stories

Our Story- Dr. Donald & Barbara Fraser

The Fraser children honour their parents’ legacy with Family Endowment Fund.

The three children of Dr. Donald and Barbara Fraser felt strongly about recognizing and honouring their parents’ contribution to their St. Catharines community. As an appropriate acknowledgement they selected a Family Endowment Fund with Niagara Community Foundation.

The idea for this special gift came from eldest son Ian whose professional career in fundraising started back in 1983. For twenty years he had actively set up endowed funds as Vice-President, and Director of Development for the Kingston General Hospital and then in his role as Director of Development at Queen’s University. This experience led him to get involved with the Community Foundation of Kingston & Area (originally called the Community Foundation of Greater Kingston). Ian was inspired, in part, by the originators of the foundation in Kingston through long-time philanthropist and former publisher of the Kingston Whig-Standard, Michael Davies who was a personal friend and mentor. With the addition of a new Executive Director, Katherine Manley, Ian accepted an advisory role with the Foundation as a volunteer with expertise in the area of planned giving. His commitment to the Kingston Foundation was certainly strong as shown through the various positions he held over the years: Board Member for thirteen years (1995-2008); Ambassador role since 2008; Past Chair, Professional Advisory Committee; Interim Executive Director between vacancies while providing periodic strategic counsel upon request.

As a dedicated practitioner in this work, Ian understood and still actively promotes the value of “long-term” funds for charities. He believes that an organization has more financial flexibility with long term funds in place. Traditionally called endowments, the concept assumes that donors entrust their “gifts of capital” to be held, invested and wisely stewarded over time. Stable, reliable annual income is generated that can be disbursed for worthwhile charitable purposes. Ian viewed these endowed funds as “savings accounts for the community.”

With Ian’s experience working with such funds, and recognizing that the Niagara Community Foundation was well-positioned to assume such responsibilities for the long term, the three siblings decided that establishing a fund to honour their parents in the Niagara Region made very good sense.

The idea that this fund would exist during and beyond their parents’ lifetimes, honouring their contributions and service to the community was very appealing. Existence of the fund allows for interested family members and friends to augment the original gift capital with periodic commemorative contributions from time to time.

Ian, Janet and Derek had the perfect opportunity at a family gathering to present their parents with this legacy gift. It came on October 27th, 2001 while celebrating Don’s 75th birthday and in anticipation of their parent’s 50th wedding anniversary in Vancouver, British Columbia.

The certificate presented to them that day reads:


Celebrating the life they share together and their devotion to family, this fund was launched with love by their children, Ian, Janet and Derek and their families, to pay tribute with admiration to their parents many personal achievements and their legacy of service to the St. Catharines Community.

Don was originally from Ottawa. His father had graduated from McGill University and directly after that enlisted to fight in World War I along with his entire class. Upon completing his patriotic commitment to his country, he worked in Ottawa for the government in agriculture on experimental farms in particular the winter hardiness and viability of wheat in Siberia. Coincidently he met his prospective wife on a cousin’s farm in Bradford. At one point Don’s Mother was a teacher in St. Catharines.

Barbara’s family, the Sampsons, including one brother, had settled originally in Toronto after her Father’s job in England brought him to Canada. He was on the British Board of Trade working for LYONS Tea. In 1949 he resigned from LYONS when they wanted him to relocate back to England. He chose to keep his children in Canada as he was comfortable with the conveniences the family had grown to experience and enjoy (especially the telephone). He then accepted a job with the Imperial Cone Company (a subsidiary of the George Weston Company) in London, Ontario.

Don and Barbara met at Lake of Bays, Ontario on Dominion Day, July 1948 and were married in October 1952. Don received his medical degree from the University of Toronto in 1951 and decided to take his two year internship at Victoria Hospital in London, Ontario where he could be near Barbara. He interned under Dr. Frank Bryant.

In July 1953 they came to St. Catharines where Don worked with Dr. Lorne Merritt in his offices on Oakdale Avenue. As Don’s practice grew he also took over some of Merritt’s overflow and then became a partner in Dr. Merritt’s clinic.

Don and Barbara initially lived above the medical offices. They eventually moved to their present home in the Glenridge area. At first it was a very isolated area but now it is a very settled subdivision.

Don was a very committed family practitioner where he covered a wide variety of family medicine for almost thirty years (1953-1982) then branching into orthopaedic medicine for a further twenty-eight years.

He had many patients in the area of obstetrics within his family practice which over the years contributed to his patient growth due to his connection with the next generations. He was well-loved and respected by his patients. His dedication showed through his very full days at the office that were then followed by house calls and then carried into the evening with his various meetings. He was on call on certain nights (Monday and Thursday) at the clinic and every other weekend but he did go in every Saturday morning. Amid all this he was committed to always be home for supper at 6:00 pm to join his family.

Their first child Ian was born in 1954 followed by daughter Janet in 1955 and Derek four and a half years later. While Barbara assisted Don’s work by periodically answering the phones which rang in their home, her priority was raising the children and keeping their new home in order.

Don suffered a life-changing, chronic back challenge (herniated disc) in 1970. This affected his everyday life as well as a change in his future medical path. In his own practice he was familiar with a book on orthopaedic medicine by Dr. James Cyriax who worked at the highly respected St. Thomas’ Hospital in London, U.K. When Don found himself in such debilitating pain, he was inspired to learn even more. With this connection, Don’s medical world changed and by 1975/76 his focus shifted to orthopaedic medicine. He became consumed and obsessed with Dr. Cyriax’s work and by 1976 he opened his own practice on Queenston Street so he could pursue orthopaedic medicine further while still continuing as a family practitioner. Don and Dr. Merritt had sponsored Dr. Jim Proudfoot who had come to Canada from the U.K. When Don and Dr. Merritt decided to dissolve their partnership they looked to Dr. Jim Proudfoot to take it over and handle some of their existing patients.

With his strong commitment to orthopaedic medicine, Don met with Cyriax in the U.K. in his office on a one-on-one basis and was involved with courses. He also attended seminars in Rochester, N.Y. He wanted to teach and share his enthusiasm. He was keen to share his beliefs, knowledge and experience as he “knew of what he spoke”. He had a very gentle touch and was very successful in this area of mild manipulations. He was frustrated with the fact that he could not get certified in orthopaedic medicine in Canada.

The Fraser children certainly witnessed their parent’s diverse activities within the community over the many years.

As her children grew up and were off to school, Barbara started to assist the community through May Court in November 1963. She has been a member for 52 years. She is recognized as a lifetime member and presently is interested in all the good work of the May Court Club. An immediate smile comes to Barbara’s face when she speaks of her involvement with May Court.

May Court was inspired by Lady Aberdeen and is a dedicated group of women whose mission is to improve the lives of those in their community who are less fortunate than themselves. The members raise funds to provide financial assistance to needy organizations or individuals, with particular emphasis on health, high risk children/youth and school nutrition programs.

In St. Catharines, the ladies first met in the church basement and then in the basement of St. Catharines General Hospital where they assisted parents by taking care of children with physical challenges like Cerebral Palsy etc. Eventually they moved into the Crippled Children’s Centre where assistance expanded to include nurses, physiotherapists, occupational and speech therapists as part of the program. Barbara sat on the Board of the Crippled Children’s Centre for approximately four years representing May Court. She did a lot of committee work which covered a variety of areas. She helped at lunch time where the children had brought in their own lunches. In 1968 she chaired the very popular May Court Ball. She worked on the Crippled Children’s Centre Toy Drive and she also represented May Court for Info Niagara (311 assistance).

As a dedicated and attentive mother when her children got older and their sons were attending Ridley College, Barbara worked on the Executive of the Ridley Guild.

Don was very active in the St. Catharines downtown chapter of Rotary starting in July of 1955. He was a Paul Harris Fellow, a club Past-President and instrumental in the formation of the Rotary Clubs of St. Catharines South and Lakeshore. He contributed much to Rotary where his commitment was obvious with his fifty-five years of perfect attendance and fifteen years of senior service. He only missed one year due to his chronic back challenge. Don believed strongly in the Rotarian’s primary motto of “Service Above Self” and the secondary motto of “One Profits Most Who Serves Best”.

He attended many meetings in his roles of Director and Committee Chairs. In 1963, when Sandy Crews was President, Don was the Vice-President. Sandy had served six months of the twelve month term when he needed to step down. Don took over and served the six remaining months as the President and then a full twelve month term as President.

In addition to serving as President of numerous provincial, national and international medical and health service associations, Don was a charter member of the American Association of Orthopaedic Medicine, served on its Board of Directors and received a Lifetime Achievement Award for his continuing work in this important field of medicine.

Don held many positions with the Lincoln Academy of Medicine and was also Chief of Staff of the St. Catharines General Hospital.

He held various executive positions with the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons which had him travelling to Toronto for meetings amidst his busy family practice.

Don was one of the first doctors to assist in the Health Services at Brock University on the team of doctors and nurses.

Barbara is very pleased that this story might be of interest to others and inspire them to get involved in the Niagara Community Foundation.

Knowing that the Niagara Community Foundation was in its founding years when they started this fund in 2001, the siblings thought this might serve as a “model” for other prospective donors to follow in the long-term interests of the regional community. Ian, Janet and Derek recognized that working with the foundation and Executive Director Liz Palmieri was a pleasure and a blessing from the outset. Together they developed the “donor-advised” fund and in a very particular way—a certificate and folder created to mark the fund’s establishment. Liz’s personal care and sensitivity with their parents as a trusted advisor and counsel concerning fund disbursement option is something all have valued.

Since Don’s passing in 2010 the consultation with Niagara Community Foundation is fully guided by Barbara who carefully observes the growth of the fund. She used to attend foundation annual meetings and enjoyed meeting the other donors including those who made very large donations. Barbara finds it very satisfying working with Liz Palmieri selecting the direction of the contributions each year. She likes to apply donations to specific needs within the community which can include well known charities or lesser known needs that could be overlooked. Some of the areas that have received donations from the fund include: The Silver Spire Church on St. Paul Street; Community Care in particular their Dental Program; Ridley College; and the Performing Arts Centre.

The Fraser siblings, Ian, Janet and Derek have certainly honoured their parents in a way that goes beyond that of physical gifts and sets a great example for others. They have shown a very innovative and long-lasting way to show their love, pride and appreciation for their Mother and Father not only as great parents and role models for them but for their community as well.