Windsor Woman Leaves Savings to Charity
Story by Michael Seguin
Photography by IPC Canada Photo Services Inc.
Saint Thomas Aquinas once wrote that, “Charity brings life again to those who are spiritually dead.” If that is the case, then Windsor’s Betty Nixon has been spreading the gift of life across the entire country.
Betty Nixon was born on October 19th, 1929. Born in London, Ontario, Betty was raised as an only child by her parents, Charles and Dorothy Nixon. After many years in Thunder Bay, Betty moved to Windsor with her parents where she worked as a Mortgage Specialist for Scotiabank.
Ross Mitton, the Branch Manager and Senior Financial Advisor of Assante Wealth Management, first became acquainted with Betty Nixon at the Lincoln Road United Church.
“Betty was like your favourite aunt,” Ross explains. “The one you could always turn to whenever you had a problem or were anxious about something. She always gave very good advice. And when it came to giving back, her generosity knew no bounds.”
For as long as Ross knew her, Betty remained dedicated to her parish.
“Betty was very active in the church,” Ross states. “She sang in the choir. She filled in for the organist. Whenever we had children’s ceremonies or Christmas parties, she was always on the piano, leading the songs. And she was on the Board of Directors as well. She was in The Happy Gang—a group that went to senior’s residents and sang for them. She was also active in the knitting and quilting circles.”
Fortunately for Windsor, Betty was as committed to her community as she was to her church.
“Betty was always concerned about children and those less fortunate than we are,” Ross states. “Homeless people. Troubled teenagers. She made a contribution to the Windsor Youth Centre to help them get off the ground. And a few years ago, she assisted with Street Help when they were looking to remodel their kitchen.”
And Betty’s generosity extended beyond her own community. For the last few years, the Rotary Club of Essex has undertaken missions to Ghana, an extremely impoverished African country, to build schools, foster economic development, provide medical care and improve water sanitation.
“Dr. Chris Spirou and his wife Kim lead medical missions down there once or twice a year to treat people in villages and the countryside,” Ross explains. “They sometimes have to walk three or four hours just to visit his clinic.”
Ross and his wife, who are patients of Dr. Spirou, mentioned the Ghana project to Betty, who was
immediately intrigued. “Four weeks before we left for Ghana, Ross reached out to my husband Chris,” Kim Spirou, the President of the Rotary Club of Essex, reports. “He said that he knew someone that wanted to give a donation.”
To Chris and Kim’s surprise, the next day Ross personally delivered the cheque to their office.
“Ross handed my husband the envelope,” Kim recalls. “Inside was a cheque for $10,000.”
Thanks to Betty’s contribution, the Rotary Club of Essex was able to drill an additional well during their Ghana mission. In total, thanks to the community’s donations, the team was able to provide over nine villages with clean drinking water.
“We erected a sign at the well Betty funded,” Kim explains. “It says, ‘This well was provided through the generosity of Betty Nixon.’”
After returning from their humanitarian efforts overseas, Kim met with Betty for lunch. “She was so sweet and so kind,” Kim states. “She was so excited about our work and what we were doing. I had prepared a scrapbook for her with photos of the villagers turning on her well for the first time. She was thrilled. She loved it. She kept thanking me for giving her the opportunity. I said, ‘No, no! We are so grateful for you, Betty!’ I told her that we would be going back, and that’s how we left it.”
A few months later, on September 9th, 2019, Betty passed away.
However, even though she is no longer with us, Betty continues to spread the gift of life. “Betty thought it advisable to divide her money amongst organizations that can really help,” Ross states. “She did this for a number of them.”
One of the organizations Betty bequeathed her fortune to was the Dollar a Day Foundation, an organization that funds frontline programs that support professionals in diagnosing and treating persons with mental illness and addictions.
“The foundation supports frontline agencies that work directly with vulnerable people,” Ross explains. “People who have mental health issues or substance abuse issues of their own. Their money goes everywhere, from places like Vancouver to Toronto to Halifax to St. John’s. The organization creates a direct impact by getting money directly into the hands of frontline workers.”
The Dollar a Day Foundation was co-founded by musician-actor-producer Alan Doyle, the lead singer for Great Big Sea.
As well, Betty left behind another gift for the Rotary Club of Essex.
“I got a call from Ross saying that he had something from Betty,” Kim reports. “I thought, ‘How nice! She’s going to fund another well.’”
To Kim’s astonishment, Betty had added a zero to her previous donation.
“I burst into tears when I opened the envelope,” Kim states. “I was completely overwhelmed.”
The Rotary Club of Essex plans to use Betty’s generous donation of $100,000 to expand their next Ghana mission.
“We’re going to build a medical clinic in her name,” Kim reports. “Most of these villages have nowhere to go when they have a health issue. Most can’t afford to seek treatment in a more secure city. Another clinic will do a lot to help people in these regions. Additionally, we’re going to drill another water well. And these wells are generational gifts. They benefit countless people. Betty will be providing people with clean water long after we pass from this world.”
In total, Betty left $100,000 each to: the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario, Save the Children Canada, the Lions Foundation of Canada Guide Dogs, The ALS Society of Ontario in Amherstburg, the Salvation Army of Canada and the Canadian Wildlife Federation.
Although Ross misses his friend of 30 years, he acknowledges that Betty left behind an impact that continues to ripple across the entire world.
“She was a very kind and gentle and caring person,” Ross states. “She wanted to make a difference in the lives of people less fortunate than we are. And she did. And she still is.”