Nova Scotia

Beloved taxi driver posthumously donates $1.68M to Antigonish hospital

A beloved taxi driver in Antigonish, N.S., has posthumously donated $1.68 million to St. Martha's Regional Hospital — the largest donation the hospital has received.

Donation from John (Johnny) MacLellan is the largest St. Martha's Regional Hospital Foundation has received

John MacLellan started driving for Zinck's Taxi in Antigonish in 1946, and logged millions of kilometres over a 60-year career. (Shoebox Media)

A beloved taxi driver in Antigonish, N.S., has posthumously donated $1.68 million to St. Martha's Regional Hospital — the largest donation the hospital has received.

John MacLellan, also known as Johnny, started driving for Zinck's Taxi in Antigonish in 1946. He reportedly logged more than 4.8-million kilometres over a 60-year career.

During that time, MacLellan became the taxi driver of choice for locals, St. Francis Xavier University students and dignitaries, and the Sisters of St. Martha.

"His motto was 'safe, reliable and courteous' and he was very good," Margaret Zinck, a family friend, told CBC Radio's Information Morning Nova Scotia on Tuesday.

Margaret Zinck said MacLellan always planned to leave money to the hospital in his will. (Shoebox Media)

Zinck met MacLellan when she was just 13. He would drive her to school since the area didn't have a school bus at the time.

She said he was a "real gentleman" who knew and talked to everyone.

"He always told us that if you needed a taxi and … even if we didn't have any money, just to come and see him," she said.

Zinck said MacLellan took pride in his job and always wore his blue uniform, driving cap and personalized belt — even after uniforms were no longer mandated.

John MacLellan's personalized belt is now on display with his driving cap at the Antigonish Heritage Museum. (Shoebox Media)

"He totally loved it," she said. "He liked meeting people and he continued that until he was 89."

MacLellan died in 2018 after a brief stay at St. Martha's Regional Hospital. He was 96. 

A short time later, the hospital's foundation received a notice that it was the residual beneficiary in MacLellan's will.

"We received the funds in a few bunches and it wasn't until June of 2021 that we really realized the magnitude of the gift, that's when we received the final amount," Meghan MacGillivray-Case, the chair of the foundation, told Information Morning.

The pallative care unit at St. Martha's Regional Hospital is named after John MacLellan. (Sarah MacDonald/St. Martha's Regional Hospital Foundation)

MacGillivray-Case said the foundation had been hoping to do something special when they received the funds but the COVID-19 pandemic put celebrations on hold.

Instead, with the help of the Antigonish Heritage Museum and Shoebox Media, the foundation put together a video celebrating MacLellan's life, career and his donation.

The video was released earlier this month and features old television footage of MacLellan in his uniform and with his taxi.

MacGillivray-Case said the money will go into the St. Martha's and You Endowment Fund, "so it'll continue to support St. Martha's for years to come."

The fund helps purchase medical equipment for the hospital and provides funding for research and education opportunities for physicians and staff.

MacGillivray-Case said the palliative care unit at the hospital has also been named the John MacLellan Palliative Care Unit in his honour.

'If he had any money, he was leaving it to the hospital'

Zinck said MacLellan was a frugal man who saved his money and didn't drink or travel, but he invested in the stock market, which is likely where some of the money came from.

She said it was always part of his plan to leave money to the hospital, but he never explained why.

"He was good to the Sisters. He always drove the Sisters … and that was always his thing right from way back, that if he had any money, he was leaving it to the hospital — the biggest amount."

With files from CBC Radio's Information Morning Nova Scotia

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