Meeting the newest addition to the Schlegel Family in Toronto’s Little Portugal
To walk into Maynard Nursing Home off the intersection of Ossington and Dundas in downtown Toronto’s west end is to walk back in time. The wide green space of Trinity Bellwoods Park is practically right across the street and the neighbourhood, filled with old Victorian-era and English cottage-style homes and the sounds of quick Portuguese accents, is a gem in the Torontonian mosaic.
The imposing and ornate structure at 28 Halton Street, which became a nursing home in the early 80s, is a stunning piece of architectural history and now part of the Schlegel Villages family. The 77 residents of Maynard and the team who cares for them adds to the growing expansion Schlegel Villages has undertaken, and on a warm August day, I’ve come to meet a few of them.
Daria Kowalsky was born in The Ukraine some 30 years before waves of Portuguese immigrants began arriving in the area she now calls home, the part of the Toronto known as Little Portugal. On the day I arrive, Maynard’s team and residents are celebrating her 100th birthday, first with a small garden party in the courtyard for close friends and family under trees even older than Daria. The priest from the church she used to attend came to offer his best wishes and those from the congregation that misses her, offering a beautiful bouquet of gleaming white flowers. After an hour or so, the garden party moves inside for another with her extended Maynard family. Team members wheel residents into the common space in the grand home’s basement, bouncing with ease between English and Portuguese as they explain the cause of the day’s celebrations.
Daria sits patiently as the guests arrive with a few loved ones surrounding her. Entertainer Patrick Rose of The Retro Ramblers begins the music, bouncing between Elvis ballads of the 50s, the songs of Judy Garland and some from the time of The Great War when Daria was still but a babe. He sings in Polish to Daria, before switching to the Ukrainian he learned growing up in Manitoba. Daria sings along clapping her hands in time with Patrick’s guitar and though her smile is bright, the day has been long and she begins to tire.
In this big beautiful home, filled with people from all corners of the globe in a neighbourhood infused with layer upon layer of culture, Daria offers a small sample of wisdom before she parts ways from her guests for a rest.
She explains that she speaks many languages, but no matter what language she chooses to speak, her words come from her heart. The other important language that guided her through life is the universal language of music, and for many years she taught others its beauty. It’s as important to her today as it ever was.
As the party ends, accents mingle while residents and team member return to their place in the heights of the old home at 28 Halton St. The walls have absorbed countless stories, Daria’s celebration being one more to add to the party. Most certainly countless more are sure to come as Schlegel Villages welcomes the latest additions to its ever-growing family.
Learn more about Maynard Nursing Home