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Jim sings to Pat during a barbershop-quartet competition in 2008.

A New Sense of Purpose

Jim Whitehead has found a new purpose in life, one that honours the legacy of his wife Pat, who passed away in 2018 after coping with Alzheimer’s disease for eight years. 

“Pat was an exceptionally loving and generous person,” says Jim. “Until the last few years of her life, she handled all of our finances – including the regular donations we made to many charities – I think there were 40 in all.” 

After Pat passed, Jim was forced to make several difficult decisions. A review of his estate in consultation with a lawyer made him recognize the wisdom of paring down the list of charities to support. Jim has chosen to include gifts in his will to some of the charities that he and Pat had long supported. To help decide which ones to support, the lawyer encouraged Jim to contact the individual charities. 

“I soon learned, to my chagrin, that few donors actually get in touch with the charities they support,” Jim says. “By contacting the charities, I’ve learned more about what they do and identified the ones that are most appropriate to honouring Pat’s legacy and our life together.” 

Jim and Pat met as children, but went their separate ways before reconnecting – and marrying – in their 40s. Pat worked in customer service for Bell Canada and Jim held a number of jobs, including family therapist, and Service Officer with the Royal Canadian Legion. Many of their charities of choice reflect aspects of the couple’s life together; both received care at The Ottawa Hospital at various times – and Jim worked there for a time – so they support the Ottawa Hospital’s Foundation. Several factors inspired their support for the Perley and Rideau Veterans’ Health Centre Foundation. Pat’s father, Sam Raymond Thicke, served in World War I, for instance. Jim is also a Veteran, although he’s quick to point out that it was during peacetime.

“In the mid-1950s, I served five years as an aircraft technician in the Royal Canadian Air Force,” says Jim. “And much of that time I spent performing at bases across Europe. Once the RCAF learned that I was a singer, they moved me into a band called the New Continental Moods.”

Jim sang in a long list barbershop quartets over the years and performed at the Perley Rideau about a dozen times. He’s now inspired to learn more about the Perley Rideau’s music program, which includes everything from casual sing-alongs to formal concerts and a community choir. Jim also plans to meet with Foundation staff to discuss whether to designate both his ongoing donations and his gift-in-will to the music program. 

“Donation gives me a sense of purpose,” says Jim. “I’m not doing this for my own recognition, but to celebrate the life and spirit of my late wife.”


Written by Peter McKinnon. To learn more about Gifts by Will, please call us at 613-526-7194 or click here.