Perhaps it was Ottawa musician Glenn Nuotio who best summed up what any ordinary person might have felt on the eve of Alex Munter’s birthday: grossly inadequate.
“Did anyone else, in realizing Alex Munter is 50, wake up and say, ‘I really haven’t done anything with my life’? Is it just me?” he joked while warming up his keyboard for his light-hearted tribute performance to Munter.
It does seem as though the former whiz kid has done it all, from his auspicious start as Young Entrepreneur of the Year to his present-day role as Ottawa's children's health leader.
At age 14, he started his own newspaper. He was a city councillor by his early 20s. He managed to accumulate years of experience in leadership roles, in health and social services, by the time he hit his early 40s and became president and CEO of the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario. He’s also head of the Ottawa Children’s Treatment Centre.
CHEO is an "inspiring place," he told his friends and family who helped him ring in another birthday decade at the Canadian Museum of Nature.
“It is a joy to work for such amazing people who are committed to such an important mission in our community. I learn every day, and I feel enormously privileged to be part of that team.”
It was nice to see that the head of the hospital doesn’t take himself too seriously; he was serenaded by Ottawa’s famous karaoke drag impresario, China Doll, who belted out There are worse things I could do from the musical Grease.
China Doll, aka Ed Kwan, also teased Munter about the whole age thing.
“I have underwear older than he is.”
Among those from the hospital were its chief of staff, Dr. Lindy Samson, and Dr. Martin Osmond, CEO and scientific director of CHEO’s Research Institute, as well Jennifer Walker and Cathy Curry, who are members of the hospital's board of directors. Also seen was Jacqueline Belsito, vice-president of philanthropy and community engagement for the CHEO Foundation.
George Weber, outgoing president and CEO of the Royal Ottawa Heart Care Group, and his wife, CBC journalist Julie Van Dusen, attended. Liberal Ottawa MPP Yasir Naqvi, Mayor Jim Watson and Coun. Diane Deans were also seen dropping in.
Patrick Dion, who was one of the judges for the upcoming Forty Under 40 awards, was also at the party.
Munter was joined by his family — including his parents, both of whom immigrated to Canada — and his long-time partner, Dennis Recto. He was the main organizer.
For Munter, the evening was about bookmarking a special moment of his life.
“I am younger today than I will ever be and, at some point, I’m going to look back at 50 and think, ‘Wow, I was only a mere 50 years old’. It’s how I feel about 40 and 30 at the moment, by the way. That's what this party is about. This party is about creating a memory; it's about enjoying this evening, but it’s about creating a moment. I want to thank all of you for being here and for being part of this moment for me.”
He ended his remarks with a quote: Happiness is only real when shared. It was poignantly penned by Christopher McCandless, the young solo traveller who turned his back on family and friends, only to end up dying alone in the Alaskan wilderness.
"I want to thank you for sharing this moment of happiness with me. I'm truly grateful. I feel enormously blessed to be part of a community with all of you," he added, before urging everyone to "party on."
During the celebrations, the whole room raised their glass and sang Happy Birthday to Munter.