By Shaun Markey –
Who Lives Here is a mini series that takes a closer look at some local homes and the people who live there.
A casual remark from a recent passerby as to why she hadn’t decorated her home and yard for Canada’s 150th, caused Helen Sauter of Dovercourt Avenue to do a double take.
Before long, the retired mother of three was planning and executing a distinctive “Canada” theme including dozens of flags and banners hung from fencing, plus windows and the front door done up like Canadian flags – complete with a large sequined red maple leaf. A front and side yard filled with tulips and daffodils completes the colourful scene.
The Canada theme is just one in a long line up of house-sized decorating projects Helen undertakes during the year.
“It started with Christmas. Then someone suggested I do a Valentine’s Day theme. It expanded from there,” explains Helen.
Helen’s efforts now include exterior decorations for all the major holidays during the year, including Easter. Of course, Halloween is a major undertaking, and her outdoor decor has won rave reviews from trick or treaters who make the annual pilgrimage to 587 Dovercourt to view the ghostly scene.
Halloween at Helen’s house has been so popular she can barely keep up with the volume of kids ringing the door bell. This past Halloween, the number of visitors went over the 200 mark. “We had to go buffet style,” Helen says, “and set up the treats on a table outside on the front patio.” Helen fondly recalls a young goblin who told her, “It’s a goal in life to visit your house at Halloween.”
Come summer, Helen likes to take a break from decorating and let the flowers do the talking. In fact, many people refer to her home as “the house of flowers.” When not decorating, Helen keeps a busy schedule and is particularly active in her neighbourhood. Each year, since 2004, she has organized the popular Mansfield Avenue block party.
Although she and her late husband, Dr. Francis Sauter, purchased the home in 2000, Helen has a much longer history in Westboro. She first moved to the area as a two-year-old when her family purchased a home on Courtney Avenue in 1965.
After multiple moves to various cities in Canada, when it came time to retire, Helen let it be known that she wanted to come back to Ottawa and, more specifically, to Westboro. At the time, not unlike today, it was difficult to find a house for sale in the area, and she and her husband dismissed the Dovercourt property at first. But their agent looked closer and found the home had been well maintained and neat as a pin. Since purchasing the home, Helen has added a main floor addition and a new kitchen. She has been more than comfortable there ever since.
Decorating her home, inside and out, is not the only pastime that keeps Helen occupied. She also recently completed a five-year stint as the volunteer President of The International Women’s Club of Ottawa.
Today, Helen stays busy planning decorating projects that she and her six-year-old grandson, Damian, can implement. He is looking forward to wearing the new gardening gloves the Easter Bunny brought him this year. A two-year-old grandson is also waiting in the wings and will likely become part of Helen’s garden decorating team in the not too distant future.
Even though her yards seem filled to the borders with flowers, Helen still comes across little areas that need attention. “If I see an empty space, I fill it with flowers,” she says.
It won’t be long before Helen has another very special event to decorate. She is engaged to be married, and although no date has been set the happy couple is making plans for the big day. It’s likely there will be lots of flowers involved.
The KT “Who lives here” series takes a closer look at some unique homes and the people who live there. Which Kitchissippi-area homes are you most curious about? It could be an old home, a new one, a big one, or a small one. Email a street address and a photo to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll do the rest. To read other stories in this series, click here.