Two west end parks were dedicated to the memory of Ruth Wildgen, a former councillor and well-loved in Carlington as a seniors' support worker, on the weekend of September 16.
Councillor Ron Kolbus and Marlene Catterall, the Member of Parliament for Ottawa West-Nepean officiated at the openings. Grenon Park becomes “Ruth Wildgen Park,” while a new play park for children at the Foster Farm highrises at 1065 Ramsey Crescent will be the “Ruth Wildgen Play Park.”
“Ruth Wildgen was a strong advocate for the less fortunate during her terms as City and Regional Councillor,” said Don Lonie, who organized the park openings. “She was well respected by both her political colleagues and the constituents that she served.” Wildgen, who died last year, was active in countless community roles from the 1960s onwards.
In the early days of a community economic development project at Foster Farm, Wildgen managed a small retail store which employed low-income residents, built their skills and turned the profits back to the community. Colleague Sue Maclatchie remembers her outrage when a shoplifter stole something from the store. “She recognized them, of course... marched right over to their house, walked in, unplugged a lamp from their living room and started to walk out with it.” When the aggrieved tenant asked what she thought she was doing, Wildgen said, “Oh, so you don't like it when people take things from you? Why would you think it's all right to take things from other people?”
Locally, Wildgen worked for the Carlington Community Resource Centre to set up seniors' programs, including a popular cooperative lunch-and-learn session with leadership from Ada Clark. A permanent legacy is the commercially-equipped kitchen at Lepage Manor, which was then a seniors' building with many residents who weren't eating well on their own. Wildgen helped tenants to organize a low-cost dinner service that met all health requirements and was still operating recently.