Order of Canada recipient has deep roots in Barry’s Bay

Jack Kitts, his wife Lian and their children Kara, Bianca and Bryson,
from The Kitts Family of the Ottawa Valley and North America (Woermke, 2007)

Dr. Jack Kitts, CEO of The Ottawa Hospital, was named a Member of the Order of Canada by Her Excellency, the Right Honourable Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada, on Friday June 29, 2018 at Rideau Hall.

According to the press release from the Governor General’s office, Dr. Kitts was recognized for

his steadfast leadership in the development and implementation of patient-centred care, and for his promotion of better health practices across the country.

The Order of Canada is our country’s highest civilian honour. It was established in 1967 to recognize outstanding achievement and “dedication to community and service to the nation.”

Dr. Jack Kitts at MVDHS 40th Anniversary at Paul J. Yakabuski Arena in 2007 (Photo: Doug De La Matter)

Dr. Kitts is a native of Barry’s Bay. He graduated from Madawaska Valley District High School in the Bay, the University of Ottawa and studied in the United States before becoming an anesthesiologist in Ottawa. After becoming director of anesthesiology and chief of staff, Jack was appointed President and CEO of the newly-amalgamated Ottawa Hospital in 2002.

Kitts has strong familial ties to the western part of Renfrew County and the Ottawa Valley. His parents, Charlie and Joan Kitts, owned and operated Kitts’ Red and White Grocery in Barry’s Bay and raised their nine children there. His grandparents Jack and Julia “Babe” Kitts – and later his uncle and aunt John and Anna Mary Kitts — ran the iconic Kitts’ General Store in Cormac, Ontario.

“Dr. Jack,” as he is known, was not the only Barry’s Bay native to receive an honour on Friday June 29. His second cousin, John Yakabuski, MPP for Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke was, on that day, sworn-in as Minister of Transportation for Ontario.

Kitts’ grandfather and namesake, John Bryson Kitts, and Yakabuski’s grandmother, Clare Conway, were siblings, the children of Charles Kitts and Roseann Murray. They were born at the Kitts’ farm and stopping place on the Opeongo Line just west of Barry’s Bay.


The Charles Kitts family of at their farm on “Kitts’ Hill” (now Mintha’s Hill) Barry’s Bay in 1896:
Back row left to right: Margaret (Mrs. James Sullivan), William (married Nellie Whelan), James. 
Middle: Francis, Mable (Sr. Mary Agatha, CSJ), Roseann (nee Murray), John Bryson, Charles, Clare (Mrs. Thomas Conway). 
Front: Roseann (Mrs. William Doyle) and Agatha (Mrs. Mark Billings). From The Kitts Family of the Ottawa Valley and North America (Woermke, 2007).

John Bryson Kitts, Dr. Jack’s grandfather, is in the middle row to the left of his father. Clare Kitts, John Yakabuski’s grandmother is on her father’s right.

To our knowledge, Kitts is the first Barry’s Bay native to receive the Order of Canada. Yakabuski is the second cabinet minister to hail from the Bay. Another cousin of both men — Sean Conway — held several cabinet portfolios in the 1980s and 1990s. Yakabuski is also the fourth individual from Barry’s Bay to represent this part of Renfrew County. He was preceded by Sean Conway, his own father, Paul J. Yakabuski, and by Sean’s grandfather, Thomas P. Murray.



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  3. Dennis Corrigan

    Thanks for that history Mark. I knew they were related, but not how. Nice to have that family photo to go with the names.

    I worked for Charlie for about a year until his death, and then for Joan for another year. Proud to say I worked for the Kitts family and Charlie was the best boss I ever had. My sister Patsy, and brother Jimmy also had worked at the grocery store there before me. Charlie was a good friend of our father’s, and when Dad died, Charlie was one of the first people to come to our house to offer his condolences.

    A very fitting honour for Jackie, and it couldn’t happen to a nicer person.

  4. Jeanette Burchat

    Congratulations Jackie. What an honour! Peter and I are so proud of you…and to have gone to school in Barry’s Bay with you and your siblings. We wish you continued success in any future endeavours…

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  6. Anne Vitkuske Mintha

    Congratulations and continuing good work…..I was a nurse for almost 40 years, class of 67 and also my sister Jeanette and my other sister Mary Lou was a registered Psychologist who passed away in Australia in 1989. I also babysat you kids while your parents went to Lake Clear, ask your mom…….my mom Lucy Vitkuske probably taught you in school . A lot of good smart intelligent and talented people came out of the Bay…..growing up in a small town gave us good catholic wholesome values which we can be proud of……..Way To Go………Anne Mintha

  7. Thelma Cowan

    Congratulations! I remember you all lived on Sandy Hill Drive ..as we all called it.
    I also remember walking down the tracks into town &right next to the Balmoral Hotel was Kitts grocery store.
    Good memories &great people even though… when I was a young girl I remember the smell of the oil on the train tracks & the railway station & crossing over the tracks to walk into Kitts store.

  8. Pam (Mask) Kassis

    Wow Congratulations Jack
    Such an honour but well deserved
    You Make our small little towns in the valley very proud and Ottawa of course as well
    Also congratulations to your mom who raised such a wonderful caring man and the rest of your wonderful family as well
    You all hold a special place in my heart with fond memories
    Thank you and God bless

  9. Joanne Olsen

    The Order of Canada!!! What an incredible honour and no more deserving a recipient. Congratulations to Dr. Jack. What a proud moment for the entire Kitts clan. As Mark points out, some great citizens born and raised in the Valley.

  10. Linda Shulist

    Congratulations Jack, a well-deserved honor and you still managed to keep your small-town values and ways of caring for people. Very special in this day and age. Congrats.

  11. Julie Kitts

    Thank you Mark. We are so proud of Jack. He is not only a kind and compassionate leader but a wonderful brother to all of us. His kindness and caring for mom is unsurpassed. He lives his values every day. Your article is wonderful. God bless. Julie Kitts

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