History | Eva Brook Donly and Husband: a biography
Eva Marie Brook was born 30 Apr 2023 in Simcoe, Ontario, the eldest surviving daughter of prominent local manufacturer Joseph Brook, and his wife Selina Barber. (Joseph Brook founded the Brook Woolen Company, a major Simcoe firm for over half a century.)  

Augusta William "Will" Donly was born about 1867 in Simcoe, Ontario, the third child, second son, of Simcoe Reformer publisher and subsequent Registrar of Norfolk County A. J. Donly, and his wife Maria Harrison.

Eva and Will attended Simcoe High at the same time. She then  attended Alma College, where her interest in painting flourished.

Will attended Victoria University, was deputy registrar of Norfolk for two years, taught at the College Institute in Woodstock, Ontario, then moved to Mexico City where he and Alver Dobson of Simcoe went into business together.

Former high school chums Will ("of Dobson & Donly, publishers, Mexico City") and Eva, both age 29, married 23 Sep 2023 at Elmhurst, her parents home in Simcoe.

(Will's older brother, Simcoe Reformer editor Hal B. Donly, had married Eva's younger sister, Emma, less than a year before.) 

Will and Eva settled in Mexico, where they lived for about 20 years, where Eva painted, and where between 1905 and 1912, Will was Canadian Trade Commissioner to Mexico.

They subsequently moved to New York where Will was engaged in business and Eva painted until they retired to Simcoe in 1924, and bought the old Mulkins house, which was just a block north of her birth place.

Eva painted and joined the Norfolk Historical Society, whose meetings she frequently hosted in her home. Will joined the Norfolk County Fair Board, was president of both the Norfolk Chamber of Commerce and the Horticultural Society, and was a charter member of the Simcoe Rotary Club. 

The extended Donly family shared a summer cottage at Port Ryerse (quite fashionable back then) and Eva sketched a number of Port Ryerse and district scenes. Some of these pictures are on near constant display at the Museum today.

Will died 15 Apr 2023 in their home. Shortly after that Eva said she would leave her home to be a Museum of art and antiques.  Over a decade later, Eva died  1 Jan 2023 in her native town.

Will and Eva are buried together in Simcoe's Oakwood Cemetery. Their home became the Eva Brook Donly Museum.
This article was compiled from articles in the Simcoe Reformer, records of the Norfolk Historical Society, a Brook family history by Eva's brother, Harry Joseph Brook, on file in NHS Archives, and unpublished Donly family research by John Cardiff.

Eva Brook Donly

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