Hospital foundation receives big donation from former Antigonish cab driver

    ANTIGONISH: A lifelong resident of Antigonish has provided the St. Martha’s Regional Hospital Foundation (SMRHF) the largest single donation in its history.

    In the late taxi driver’s will, John MacLellan left a legacy gift of $1.68 million to SMRHF, something the foundation said they are forever grateful for. The foundation said it only realized the true amount of the donation after receiving the last installment in June 2021.

    “The first thing that catches you is the figure,” Kathy Chisholm, St. Martha’s Regional Hospital Site Lead said. “But the second thing was, I’m not surprised of his generosity.”

    MacLellan died at the age of 96 in 2018 following a brief stay at St. Martha’s Regional Hospital. He drove a taxi in the town until the age of 89.

    A family friend of MacLellan, Margaret Zinck, remembered him as a very honest and good person who was very kind to everyone he crossed paths with.

    “Safe, reliable, and courteous, that was his motto,” Zinck said. “And they always depended on him at Zinck’s. He was a true gentleman.”

    Meghan MacGillivary-Case, chair of the SMRHF, explained a legacy gift is a gift that someone leaves in their will and “it is one of the most significant and impactful gifts that you can give,” noting that “John’s gift will help support health care in our community for generations to come.”

    Chisholm advised this donation is invaluable to the facility and the foundation wants to recognize the importance of this significant donation, which will be placed into the “St. Martha’s and You” endowment fund.

    “The palliative care unit will now hold the name of John MacLellan as you enter the department,” she said. “In recognition of his legacy and the importance of this donation in years to come.”

    The taxi driver, who started with Zinck’s Taxi in 1946, would always be in uniform wearing his matching blue jacket, pants, peaked cap, light blue shirt and navy necktie, and he always had a smile on his face, according to the foundation, Zinck said. According to StFX University, MacLellan logged more than 4.8-million kilometres over his 60-year career.

    “Didn’t mind driving, it was a lot of fun, there were good days and bad days,” MacLellan said in an old grainy interview that was used in a tribute video that was made in honour of his legacy gift. “But I put over a million miles on cars. In fact, there was a write up in Time Magazine.”

    No matter where he was, Zinck said MacLellan was always wearing his uniform, even after it wasn’t a requirement on the job.

    “He knew everybody, and all their histories, and he could tell you a story about everybody,” Zinck said. “Johnny really enjoyed being a taxi driver and the people he got to meet, and was a big part of the history of Antigonish.”

    MacLellan’s uniform now hangs in Antigonish’s Heritage Museum, which includes a personalized belt, that he had until the day he died.

    “My future was in this town. But the bottom line is you got to dedicate yourself to the job. It’s a public service,” MacLellan said in the video. “Well, you meet a lot of nice people and a lot of good conversations; it was very rewarding when you’re looking back.”