Ann Sloat (centre) and her children — Barbara, Donald, Vicky, Cathy and Michael — stand behind a new sign designating the forecourt. Also pictured at the renaming ceremony in March is Ancaster Coun. Lloyd Ferguson (far right). – Photo by Debra Downey
Ann Sloat in 1997 – Hamilton Spectator file photo
Ann Sloat, a trailblazer in Hamilton politics who believed that “public service was not an option, but an obligation” passed away Nov. 21. She was 89.
Sloat’s daughter, Barbara, stated on Facebook that her mother “was a fighter to the end. A truly remarkable woman.”
Ancaster Coun. Lloyd Ferguson, who served 10 years with Sloat on Ancaster council, announced her passing to Hamilton councillors at their Nov. 22 meeting.
“She will be dearly missed by the community,” said Ferguson.
A few councillors said Sloat embraced the term, “old broad,” which she found endearing, while also providing a measure of toughness that she displayed over her years in office.
“She was a good broad,” said Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger, who served with her on the former Hamilton-Wentworth Regional Council.
Mountain Coun. Tom Jackson, who also served with Sloat, said he was extremely sad to hear of her passing.
He called her a “feisty” woman who also had an “infectious laugh.”
“It was a joy to be with her when she was deputy mayor,” said Jackson.
“She was just awesome,” said Stoney Creek Coun. Brenda Johnson.
Stoney Creek Coun. Maria Pearson said she got to know Sloat during the many meetings that were held during the trying amalgamation issues in 2000.
“I learned a lot of lessons from her in a short time,” she said.
Sloat served as mayor of Ancaster from 1973 to 1984 and was deputy mayor at the time of amalgamation in 2001. She was also a Progressive Conservative MPP from 1984 to 1985, representing Wentworth North. She also served on the Ancaster Hydro Commission for 11 years, was an Ancaster school trustee and became the first woman to serve on the police commission. She retired after Ancaster amalgamated into the new City of Hamilton.
Sloat said when she served on Hamilton-Wentworth Regional Council, she was the only female among a room full of male politicians.
“There were very few elected women at the time,” she said. “I was the first.”
Over the years, she has encouraged “good, smart” women to run for political office, such as Flamborough Coun. Judi Partridge.
“I’m here because of Ann, and I’m proud of it,” said Partridge earlier this year. “She is one formidable lady and I love her to death.”
Sloat told a gathering of people who came out to honour her achievements in March 2017 as they renamed the Ancaster Old Town Hall’s forecourt that she has had a “40-year love affair with the people of Ancaster.
“Not only did you elect me and elect me, ad nauseam, you knocked on doors and put up signs and canvassed and did all the things to get me elected,” said an emotional Sloat. “I love you for it. Looking after the town of Ancaster was a real privilege.”
Earlier this year, Ferguson proposed renaming the entrance area of the Ancaster Old Town Hall after Sloat. The proposal was quickly adopted by staff, and councillors approved the recommendation. On March 30, an unveiling was held, which turned into a celebration of Sloat and her career serving the community.
Ferguson said he would often call Sloat for advice. Sometimes she would demand to know, “‘What the heck you are doing?’”
But one thing Sloat drummed into Ferguson was protecting the Ancaster community.
“She insisted to me to never give up on the three to four (storey) height (bylaw) in order to maintain that small town feel,” said Ferguson. “I do that to this day.”
During the renaming ceremony, Ferguson likened the Old Town Hall forecourt, like Sloat, to the heart of Ancaster, where people from across the community arrive to use the Ancaster Library, municipal service centre, the Hamilton Police Service Museum, the business improvement area, the tennis and lawn bowling clubs and Village Green Park.
“You have been a real leader in our community and someone I have a lot of respect for,” said Ferguson. “So do a lot of other people.”
Ferguson said later that Sloat was “thrilled” with the recognition. During an interview with the Ancaster News earlier this year, when she found out about the renaming, Sloat said she “had tears in my eyes. I’m quite surprised. Isn’t that nice?”
Sloat repeatedly said how much she loved the town and its people and always worked hard on their behalf.
“I will defend Ancaster to the deity,” she said. “I love Ancaster. The people have been very, very nice to me.”
Visitation is scheduled for Nov. 27 from 1-4 p.m., 7-9 p.m. Funeral is scheduled for Nov. 28 starting at 11 a.m.
Both will be held at Dodsworth and Brown Funderal Home, 378 Wilson St. E., Ancaster.