At 100 years come August 11th, Dr. Brummie Aiello celebrates a milestone not reached by many.
Below are two versions of his life as seen through the eyes of the writers.
by Chip Aiello
My old dad is going to be 100 years old on August 11, and that’s old by anyone’s measure. For those who read this column on a regular basis, you will know that Pop has provided me with much good material over the years. Most of it was meant in fun, the odd time I meant otherwise, but fortunately Pop does not read me. The reason he can provide me with such good material is because he’s colourful. The reason he’s colourful is because when you live to be 100, you get to be 100, you get colourful. And so with the story.
Pop was born in Fernie, B.C. in 1910. He spent his early years there, in his teens going to an all boys school on the coast. He attended the University of Alberta, where he got his medical degree, and in 1939, after graduating and doing post grad work, came to Drumheller as a temporary replacement in the office of Dr. Ross. For those unfamiliar with this type of thing, temporary replacements, if they are any good at all, are rarely temporary. Apparently Pop proved to be just what the doctor ordered, I mean 70 years could hardly be called temporary.
When Pop first hit town he stayed in a rooming house, but he soon moved uptown to the Alexandra Hotel, where he shared lodgings with a young entrepreneur who would have a great influence on this town, a fellow by the name of Ossie Sheddy. Ossie and Brummie became lifelong friends and business partners, sharing many adventures. Both being convivial, sociable types, they liked to entertain and were good at it, but that’s for another time.
One day, while at work at the hospital, Pop had stepped out for a smoke. Another fellow stepped out to join him. Pop looked to the west at a plume of smoke and wondered aloud, “I wonder what that smoke is from.” The other fellow answered, “Oh, it’s the Alexandra Hotel, there’s a big fire there.” (At that time you could see downtown from the hospital second floor). Shortly thereafter, Pop quit smoking. All Pop’s belongings were lost in the fire. Fortunately, his dad, Joseph Aiello, owned a store in Fernie, Jos. Aiello, Gent’s Furnishings. Pop made the trip home, replaced his wardrobe as needed, and returned to work.
There was at the time, a pretty, young red head working in Dr. Ross’s office, and Pop, being young, single and reasonably handsome, did not fail to notice. After a long period of wooing and getting to know one another, they got married in 1948. In 1949 they moved to Chicago, where Pop trained for his anesthesiology specialty. The apartment they stayed in was owned by Al Capone. Pop saw things and did things, the stories of which he still relates in detail today.
By 1950, the former Miss Margaret Brown and the good doctor had returned to Drumheller for keeps. They immediately started a family that was to grow to number 5, three boys, two girls. As I recall, Mom took a lot of phone calls for Pop, and when Pop got home, he would go out and make the necessary house calls. There were plenty of re-heated suppers, as Pop was in and out a lot. I don’t know how Mom did it, I get upset when Pop is late for a meal that I cook for crying out loud.
Pop was an avid sportsman, he enjoyed pheasant and duck hunting with his brothers-in-law, and went on yearly summer fishing trips with his good friend Bob Shapiro, and again, several brothers-in-law. He liked to curl in the winter, enjoying the camaraderie of bonspiels but his real passion was golf. He studied it, he played it, he read about it, he played it, he watched it (still does) on T.V. and he played it. He always points out, and is proud of the fact that he helped plant the trees lining some of the fairways at the golf course, before it ever opened as Dinosaur Trail Golf Club. Well into his 80’s he walked 9 holes almost every day, without a cart, advising those who did use a cart that they would be better off walking. (Coming from a doctor, you could give that advice some credence). Today he plays on the boulevard, his wind having deserted him, and his legs no longer the walking machines they once were. His enthusiasm and intensity are still there: “Son of a bitch, I topped that bastard”, “I lifted my head”. Did I mention being colourful? Well it extends to his language on occasion.
Pop doesn’t (can’t) golf anymore really, due to his lack of wind and leg power. I’ve taken him to the course twice over the last two summers, and it was hell, for me anyway. Between the first tee and the first green, Pop was in and out of the cart half a dozen times. In between times, he was tutoring me on how to correctly grip the club, or correcting my backswing, my stance, or even the way I drove the cart. With all that climbing in and out, by the fourth hole he was exhausted and ready to call it a day. I was exhausted and ready to leave behind long before the fourth hole.
Prior to leaving on one of Pops annual summer fishing trips, Mrs. Sheddy (the editors mother) and a few of the girls thought it might be funny to hard boil the boy’s supply of eggs. I suppose that it was, for the girls anyway, but for the fellas, well have you ever tried cracking a hard boiled egg into a hot frying pan? Hard boiled eggs that were to serve as breakfast for 10 days for 4 grown men. That’s a lot of hard boiling.
Pop loves dogs, and to this day says that if he could still walk, he would have one. From the time I can remember, we always had a dog in our house, and it was always a Lab of one colour or another. They always served as hunting partners, flushing and retrieving pheasants or diving into a slough after a downed duck. The last dog in the line was a chocolate Lab named Toffee, or as Pop called him, Tuffy. He came to Pop as a gift from two old friends, Ossie Sheddy Sr. and Paul Ainscough. He was presented to Pop as a puppy at a roast in 1982, and although my mother was smiling at the moment, she swore she could have killed Ossie and Paul. She thought that at 72 Pop was too old for a brand new puppy, and she sure didn’t want to look after a puppy. He was a cute puppy that grew into a nice dog, but Pop says that he cost more in vet bills than all his other Labs combined. He lived 14 years. Pop put on a lot of miles walking that brute, but loved every minute.
I really don’t know what my editor wanted out of this story, and so I haven’t included any anecdotes regarding too many people. Most people who knew Pop are no longer here, and sometimes I think he wishes the same for himself. I hate for this to sound like a eulogy, I hope it hasn’t.
by O.R. Sheddy, Mail Editor
When organizers were planning Brummie Aiello’s 75th birthday party, they struggled with the idea of what to get him for a present to mark the occasion.
One thought was to buy him a dog.
After all, he was a dog lover, always had a dog, taught him/her to retrieve birds, exercised them by walking their paws off, yeah, why not a dog?
The thought occurred to this writer that maybe Brummie was a bit old to have a dog, who would look after the him after Brummie passed, etc.
After all, how many 75 year old men want a dog to look after?
We’ll never forget when they brought in a 3 month old chocolate brown Lab pup, soon to be named Toffee, that brought a cheer from the crowd which was probably asking the same questions.
Fast forward 25 years.
Toffee is long gone about 10 years ago, was deaf, mostly blind, yet ably followed Brummie around the neighborhood during their all too familiar daily walks.
And so it is during the life of a man who has had 100 years of life, 100 years of living.
Happy Birthday Brum.
When you know someone all your life, you appreciate all that he has, all that he offers us back.
This man roomed with Ossie Sr. at the Alex Hotel in the early 1940’s, introduced him to Florence, delivered this writer, then took out his tonsils a few years later.
He tutored us in high school chemistry, (payment took the form of a bottle of Crown Royal), and toasted at our wedding.
We walked into their house without knocking, took note of and valued his wisdom, and treasure his friendship as he is as sharp today as ever.
One cold winter’s night he was expected at the K-40 meeting about 6 or 6:30 at the Diana Restaurant, a short walk from his house.
When he didn’t show up, we called the house and asked where he was. Son Chip said he had left an hour or so ago.
He started looking from his end, we started looking from ours.
Couldn’t find him.
Then, he showed up wondering why the fuss, saying he had simply walked over to St. Anthony’s Church before the meeting.
Why would anyone worry about a then 90+ year old on a cold winter’s night, who decided to walk to church?
He often says he likes to walk by the funeral home on his way to church, “just to piss them off”.
He is a thrifty man, and he didn’t spend a lot of money on cars.
A few years back, we followed him into the golf course parking lot, and his muffler was dragging on the pavement. He said he knew it needed fixing, but we think he was trying to have his muffler outlive him so he wouldn’t have to bear the cost of replacing it!
Brummie survived a car accident in the early ‘70’s and then some years later was hit by a car in downtown Drumheller.
The words “Physician, heal thyself” seemed to work well with him, as evidenced by his integrity.
He is well respected by his peers, having been often called by his colleagues for advice on medical matters even after retirement.
Possessing a great sense of humour, he loved to tell stories. Rarely an off-color joke, just mostly stories, and characteristically with his index finger pointing skyward.
Always the index finger.
That story he tells about going out to Fanny Ramsey’s fancy house, responding to a plea for medical care for one of her “girls”, is one we have heard him tell often.
It brings us to tears, laughing, just to listen to him giggle when he tells it.
The poor soul was dead, had been for hours, while her friends were unable to bring themselves to enter the room.
When you reach the age of 100, you automatically assume the role of historian.
He can tell you the history of the curling rink, the golf course, the hospital, St. A’s school and church plus many more, remembers names of people most have long forgotten, and if you disagreed with him on a certain obscure fact, you better recant, because you will probably be wrong.
At 100, he has outlived all of his friends, his wife Margie, and many of his friend’s children.
That is part of an amazing life.
He has this world figured out pretty well, and why not, it’s pretty simple when you break it down into Brummie’s terms.
An education is a valuable tool for all of your life.
A lifelong belief in God will guide you all of your life.
A sense of humour is essential to one’s well being.
No revelations here, just common sense.
Thanks Brum, for all you have given us and will continue to give as long as you want.