From Camrose to Penhold, and places in between, some of our residents share their stories. Read the profiles below and learn a little bit more about their lives.
Meet Allan Bowie from Deer Meadows in Camrose
Allan Bowie’s family has been a presence around Rosalind for several generations. “My grandfather on my mother’s side was one of the first white people in the area back in 1892,” he says. He’s spent the majority of his life farming the area, and his family members are continuing that tradition.
Allan was born and grew up on his family’s farm. He remembers starting work on the farm while still in school. In those days, they used horse teams rather than tractors. “In the early days, it didn’t cost much to run a farm but now it’s different.”
He married his wife when he was 25 and they started their own farm … a half mile down the road from his parents’ farm. For over 70 years, Allan has farmed around Rosalind and he remembers those days fondly.
Today, one of his two boys has taken over the family farm. His grandson’s family also remains in Rosalind and continues to work on the farm. There’s even a great granddaughter who will probably carry on farming in the area.
After spending his whole life in and around Rosalind, it was an adjustment for Allan to move into Camrose two and a half years ago. “It’s a great place but it’s not really home for me,” he says.
While an adjustment, Allan wasn’t alone when he moved to Deer Meadows. Several people he knew in Rosalind also live there, one of whom he played golf with before he stopped a few years ago. “I golfed quite a bit. I didn’t start until I was over 50 and I was enthusiastic about it. I’m not sure if I was any good but I was certainly enthusiastic.” The last time he golfed was on his 95th birthday when he played with his grandchildren and great grandchildren.
As the oldest gentleman in the residential living facility, Allan looks forward to his 100th birthday in two years. “I’m going to have a real celebration,” he comments.
Allan may not golf anymore but he has picked up a hobby that keeps him busy. “I probably spend about 5-6 hours a day on puzzles.” An activity he didn’t start until after moving into Deer Meadows, Allan enjoys putting together jigsaw puzzles. For Christmas, he received 14 puzzles as gifts which he’s working through slowly, on top of the countless puzzles already on site. As he says, “there’s no end.”
He’s joined by a few other residents in his hobby, one who is fairly blind but still manages to help find the pieces. It typically takes a week for them to complete a puzzle, though sometimes there are tough ones that challenge them.
“People think I’m patient because I just stay with it,” Allan says about his puzzle hobby. “Maybe I’m not smart enough to give up.”
Meet Birdie Walker from Peace Hills Lodge in Wetaskiwin
When Peace Hills Lodge first opened five years ago, Birdie Walker helped cut the ribbon.
“It was a beautiful, sunny day but very windy,” she remembers. “Sherry, the Activities Coordinator asked if I would help in cutting the ribbon. I felt very honoured to be asked.”
Born in Missouri, Birdie was five when she and her family moved to Canada. They started a farm in Brightview where she grew up until she moved into town to work. “Then I met a farmer and went back to the farm,” she chuckles.
After 23 years of marriage and five kids, her husband passed away at the young age of 49. “I guess one was enough,” she comments with a smile when speaking about never remarrying.
When her husband was alive, she remembers she was always the one who went into town if he needed something on the farm. “I would go to the machine shops and try to explain what he wanted. It was quite funny.” They also didn’t travel much, making only one trip to northern Alberta and Victoria, B.C. That all changed, though, when she got older.
She had a daughter in Scotland she visited over ten times. Her other children are all scattered, in Dubai and Canada. She also visited another daughter who lived in New Zealand. “I went around the world on my own. Stopped in Fiji when I was flying over to Australia. Went to Singapore, Egypt, and Greece as well.” She also mentions going back to Missouri to visit relatives at the young age of 85.
It’s quite the contrast to her life with her husband on the farm. When her husband passed, her middle son decided to take over the farm where he now lives with his wife and children.
Birdie then took a job cooking in Devon Island for research groups. “My daughter-in-law was offered the job but she just had a baby and didn’t want to go. So, I talked to them and got the job.” Birdie spent three summers at the camp. “I baked bread, bread, and more bread,” she laughs.
After working on Devon Island, Birdie took courses at the Wetaskiwin Hospital and became a nursing attendant, working in the old nursing home for 11 years. After retiring, she worked in several homes as a live-in caretaker. She continued that work until she moved into the lodge, but she still helps people when she can.
“I drove a friend from the old lodge to her dentist in Beaumont. First three times we went, I waiting in the reception are and then I thought, that’s dumb, I need work done and I’m just sitting here … and now my dentist is in Beaumont.”
She also poached eggs every morning for the same friend, a tradition she’s carried on for her sister who also lives at Peace Hills Lodge.
When not driving people around, she also did grocery shopping for a former nurse. She laughs again when telling the story, “It’s so hard to shop for someone when you don’t know what you’re looking for. There are so many different brands and you don’t know which one they want.”
Birdie is definitely not the type of person to sit still. She did ceramics for a while when a neighbour wanted to go to the classes and asked her to go as well. She was also involved with the Mission Church but hasn’t gone regularly since breaking her leg.
“The day I fell, I was coming out of the dining room. My daughter had given me rhubarb cake and I took it in to share. I had also gone into town to buy ice cream. So glad I didn’t fall in town, I waited until I got home to fall.”
On the quieter side, Birdie enjoys reading, mostly inspirational Christian novels. She’s also reading through the Bible again. “I try to read my bible through every year. If you get behind, it’s hard to catch up.” She’s also been watching the curling, a sport she used to play. “We won as a group in a tournament once and got a trophy. It wasn’t me who did the winning,” she chuckles. “It was my partners.”
As she finishes talking, she apologizes for her ‘soft voice,’ relating another amusing tale. “I had polio in the throat in 1953. I was in hospital for two weeks in isolation. I didn’t know I couldn’t talk. As long as I was lying down, I had a voice. But I went home to three kids, and when I tried to yell at them it didn’t work.”
As the anniversary of the new lodge approaches, it would be no surprise if Birdie is there to cut more ribbons and serve cake.
Meet Carol Ross from Forestburg
Carol Ross is no stranger to Big Knife Villa; when it first opened, she worked here for seven years cooking and cleaning, “It just seemed like I lived here,” she comments about moving into the place in 2012.
She also volunteered driving the van, which she occasionally still does, “I’ve driven to Stettler, Camrose, picnics by the river, picking up plants.”
Carol and her husband moved into Big Knife Villa together but, sadly, he died shortly afterwards. Carol herself had cancer 10 years ago but it is in remission. “I guess the Lord isn’t finished with me yet,” she says with a slight smile.
Born in Galahad, Carol grew up east of Forestburg on a farm. When she married, she lived west of Forestburg, and then nine years later she moved to an acreage west of town. “We had animals. Horses, chickens, pigs, and cows but we ended up with just horses and cats after a while.”
While she worked odd jobs, including at a pizza parlor, Carol opted to be a ‘stay-at-home-mom’ and raise her four girls. Her daughters have moved across the world including Oman and Wyoming, the closest living in Pincher Creek and Edmonton. “I don’t see a whole lot of them,” she says. “Three of them are RNs so they’re busy.” The youngest lives in Oman. Though Carol hasn’t visited yet it’s on her wish list. “I get sent pictures on my iPad,” she mentions.
Carol recently had an injury, tearing muscles in her hamstring. “I was bit scared but I’m all better now.” For someone who likes to stay active, having to use a cane was not fun.
To occupy her time, Carol likes to scrap book, make cards, and knit. “I used to go to the Church Knitting Club. Now I knit scarves for the homeless. I was given yarn to make the scarves and then they put them around Edmonton for people to pick up.”
She also loves to paint, starting the hobby back in 1986. “One of my daughters went to art class and she had her stuff lying around. I thought, I could do that. I’ve sold I don’t know how many paintings.” Some of her artwork adorns the hallways of the building, as well as inside her apartment.
“We used to have an art room over in the fire hall but our numbers started dwindling, so we left,” she mentions. Carol’s now trying to set up a room in the Drop-In Centre, which is part of the building.
“It’s quite handy to have the centre there. You can got over for coffee or play cards. It’s nice,” she says.
She also enjoys her “little room and apartment,” also commenting on the view outside her room. “I’ve lived by the highway for 45 years and you get used to it.”
Meet Christa Hedwig from Lacombe Lodge
Christa Hedwig’s journey to Lacombe Lodge is a long one, filled with danger, uncertainty, but also love and family. Born on Christmas Day, she is the fourth child of eight growing up in a small town in Germany. When war came to their doorstep, life changed drastically for Christa and her family.
She was twelve when World War II began moving from her home town to Berlin where she started her household training. Once she finished the year’s training she rejoined her family who had moved to a small town east of Berlin. Together they faced the dangers of war and, later, occupation under the Russians.
While the war may have ended, Christa’s plight continued as she and her family struggled to survive in a new world. At 17 she was forced to leave her family and help the Russians herding sheep. She luckily escaped with her team and began a journey to reunite with her family. Once again together after a harrowing experience, they learned her eldest brother and her father had been killed.
In 1950, she and her family decided to move to Canada where her mother had two sisters. Two of Christa’s sisters stayed in Germany as they had married. Her brother and mother eventually settled down near Beiseker, AB, and today her nephew has a farm there.
Arriving in Lacombe, Christa remembers “It was quite a culture shock moving here. We were waiting for our uncle at the train station when a farmer came up with a team of oxen. We didn’t have that back home. We didn’t know what to expect.”
Christa’s very first task upon arrival was to learn English. “My aunt said you have to go work in house to learn English. I was with a very nice family, and the lady used to be a teacher so I learned a lot from her.” The family she worked with lived in Ponoka. She stayed with them for a few years before moving to Calgary where she did housework.
In her 20s, Christa began travelling Canada. “It’s such a beautiful country,” she says. “I travelled all alone but you’re never really alone when you travel; you meet strangers and travel awhile together then go your own way.”
She also travelled to Germany later in life, which proved an emotional experience for her. “When we left, it was bombed. When I went there again, everything was built up so beautiful. I was amazed, it was such a difference.”
After travelling, she settled down. She met her husband, Dietrich, married and soon she had three sons. As a family, they went to visit friends for a picnic. Their location was close to the Northwest Territories. With her mischievous smile, Christa tells me, “We were by a pond and there was a monument marking the border. We were so close and I told my kids I’m going into the NWT. So, I stepped over the line and back and then over again, and I visited the NWT.”
However, as life would have it, tragedy struck Christa’s life again and Dietrich was killed in a plane crash. With three children to raise, Christa continued on with her determined attitude. She found work at a ballpoint factory where she worked for twenty years.
Today, she has eight grandchildren and seven great grandchildren. “I don’t see a lot of them because I don’t drive anymore. The trouble is everyone has to work.” They do all get together, though, twice a year for family reunions in August and December.
Christa moved to Lacombe Lodge in 2015, and while it hasn’t been a long time she says she’s happy. “When my daughter-in-law and I came to the lodge, we were shown around. We saw the rooms, some big, some small, but always, I look at the floor. If the floor would’ve been dirty, I would’ve have come. But it’s always clean. The staff are wonderful.”
After many struggles, travels, and adventures, life has finally settled down for Christa. “I love it here.”
Meet Deb Ulrich from Louise Jensen Care Centre in Camrose
When you first meet Deb Ulrich in her suite at Louise Jensen Care Centre, you can’t help but smile. From her enthusiasm and cheerful nature to the many wind chimes hanging from the ceiling that bring charm to the space, you feel at home.
Deb’s cheer is plain to see when she talks about her life, “I chat a lot, been that way all my life. I’ve always been outgoing. It’s helped me in every aspect of my life.” She and another resident also serve as the unofficial welcoming committee at the centre, trying to bring a little more cheer in their co-residents’ lives.
Deb has lived at Louise Jensen for 11 years, ever since her husband, Terry, was offered a job in Camrose. “My husband and I have a house here. Because of my care I spend about 95% of my time in Louise Jensen but I still get to go to our house and visit my husband and our dog, Bailey.”
It was a car accident on May 25, 2002 that eventually brought her to Louise Jensen. “I was 42 and a quadriplegic.” Her children were 16 and 18 at the time, turning all their lives upside down. As Deb describes it, “There’s just so many things thrown at us in life. A big hammer was thrown at us but we’ve been able to come through it with the help of everybody.”
When she came out of the hospital, her husband had modified their home in Sherwood Park to meet her needs. From putting a ramp out the front and widening the doors to creating an island in the kitchen she could roll up to it, Terry remains a dedicated and supportive husband. They’ve been married 33 years now and have adapted to their new circumstances as a couple.
While Deb may still be “relearning” many things as she phrases it, she stays a strong independent woman. “I’m very glad I can roll myself because there are others that can’t. It would be very hard to just have to rely on a day to day basis on everybody else and not yourself. Independence makes a real difference.”
With her husband’s help, Deb has learned how to maintain her independence as much as possible. “My husband helps me to make tools. I try to problem solve. No one is going to do it for you – you have to learn to problem solve.” Her husband also bought her a computer even though she was “computer illiterate.” He taught her how to use it and now it’s become an important part of her daily life.
Deb’s life is a busy and full one, whether it is visiting with family and friends, having her care routine, taking part in activities, or spending time with her companion, she’s on the go. “I love going out with Phyllis. We go shopping, or go home and make supper for my husband.” She continues, “You never know where I’m going to be. Lots of times if I’m not out and about or at home, I’m here doing something. That’s why I have to make sure I have a calendar.” In fact, she has several calendars around her room, including one on her computer.
While her life may already seem busy enough, Deb remains involved in the community. She’s been collecting recycling for some time now in support of the Food Bank. Through the recycling, she collects money to buy groceries. She’s already made it over $2500 and is on her way to raising $5000 in $500 increments. An account has been set up at the Bottle Depot so that anyone can contribute to the fund when they bring their recycling in.
“I achieve from one thing to another, always achieve higher and higher, always moving my goals up. I don’t do anything small. When you do it, you do a good job of it, whether it’s totalling your car or you’re doing recycling to help the food bank,” she laughs.
In her usual enthusiastic spirit, Deb also describes how she works on “relearning” things because “I want to keep my mind going, keep my head sharper. If I don’t think, I forget.” She likes to play on the computer or scrabble, both of which help her relearn how to spell. “When we play scrabble, we don’t use a board or play for points. We just play on the table for two hours and figure out the words. I was always doing three-letter words and I wanted to do longer words.” She also likes to play Hangman as a way to keep her mind sharp.
“I like to do certain activities that are more about thinking or hands-on to improve dexterity. I live the active things, keeps me busy.”
Deb also loves spending time with her grandchildren. “All three of them have learned to walk around me. The love the big wheels and pushing the chair,” she chuckles. “They always want to push granny around. It’s nice they grew up with that, no fear of someone in a wheelchair.”
Many of us would be lucky to have a life as fulfilling as Deb’s, despite what may first appear as a detriment.
“You have to have a positive attitude in life, not matter what.”
Meet Jack Kirschman from Forestburg
As Jack Kirschman will tell you, “I was born in Forestburg, and I will die in Forestburg. There’s no place like home.”
Jack grew up on a farm near, you guessed it, Forestburg. He comments it’s “a privilege to be raised on a farm I think.” In his view he was raised at the best time on a farm as today it’s changed into big business rather than the mixed farm he grew up on.
“My folks and I lived on the poor side. We may have had not much but we never went without.” While Jack was the first born, and the first born in the Forestburg Hospital, he was joined by a sister and brother.
Jack is full of colourful stories including from his youth on the farm: “I had the homeliest dog, an Airedale. Growing up, in the Spring my dad would do (castrate) the calves and pigs. Well, my dog was always running around all the time and my dad said he was going to do him as well. So, I took the dog behind a shed and I hid him. My dad never did catch him. After that I kept him next to me all the time.” Jack chuckles when he remembers the story.
Though his heart always resided with farming, Jack also took on work in the mines. He was the second youngest coal miner working at the Murray Coal Mine, “They were good guys. I liked the old guys there and their stories.” Jack continued to mine even after he married and bought a farm. “It was a second income but sometimes it really was the first income,” he chuckles.
Jack’s wife, Lily, had two children from a previous marriage. Jack had always taken it for granted that they’d get along and they’re still close today. Jack and Lily also had a son together who, unfortunately, died at 45 years old from Budd Cherry disease. Lily passed more recently after 62 years of marriage.
During their marriage, they bought a condo in Arizona when they retired. They spent around 13 winters there, enjoying the activities and company, “We stayed in a park with around 1000 people, more people than is in Forestburg but they’re all the same age group as us.” Eventually they moved to Big Knife Villa and Jack has been there for the past eight years.
Though he is on his own now, he knows many people in Big Knife Villa. “It’s different when you’ve been raised and lived in the same area, you know most of the residents here.” For instance, his current neighbour is the daughter of the man Jack bought his first farm from when he and Lily married.
A self-described workaholic, Jack continues his community involvement as well. “I’ve been involved with the Lions for 54 years I think. I got my 50 year pin a few years ago.” He and a friend are the two oldest members.
As he sits in his comfortable living room looking out the window, Jack comments, “I’m lucky to live this long and have a good life. Life is what you make it, in a way.”
Meet Ken Reuer from Wetaskiwin
Ken Reuer was born in Wetaskiwin and though he moved to other places in Alberta, it’s where he chose to return and retire.
He left in 1962 to work in the oilfields in Cochrane, which started a career as varied and energetic as Ken himself. From driving trucks and being a plumber to working as a heavy duty and automotive mechanic, Ken has explored a few paths over the years.
One path that remained consistent throughout the jobs and moves was his calling to the ministry. “I’ve been in the ministry for 20 years. I didn’t ever take a salary; any funds that came in went to someone who needed it.” Ken started the Burning Bush Christian Crusade in 1971 as a charitable organization to help people in need.
In fact, Ken has started a few churches as well, all of which he turned over to someone else once they were established. “I’m not a pastor, I don’t have the heart of a pastor. But I can start things and hand them over,” he says with a smile.
Ken started churches in South Edmonton, Fort Saskatchewan, and Saddle Lake. All three were started as non-denominational. Two became full gospel churches while the third, in Fort Saskatchewan, became Pentecostal.
In 1988, Ken was diagnosed with progressive Multiple Sclerosis, which effectively ended his travelling. “Back then the Church would ask me to help out all kinds of denominations. I was never the type of person to hang my shingle on one denomination. Most of my meetings, we booked a hall and placed and ad.”
Despite not being able to preach in person, Ken has found another way to reach out – the internet. “On the internet, the email goes pretty much around the world,” he says. “It gets sent to Africa, UK, New Zealand, Australia, US, and Canada. Most who I write to are local but some from Africa and Singapore write back with questions.”
Ken’s online ministry, “Food for Thought,” is simple. He sends an idea or thought out to his email list along with a verse. When people ask questions about the meaning of the thought or verse, he writes a long email discussing the themes and meaning. Altogether, he spends eight hours a day on the computer checking emails and responding. He laughs, “I’ve been doing this for 16 years now and I haven’t repeated myself.”
It’s quite an achievement when you consider Ken is self-taught. “I bought my first one in 1993. It was a Mac and it came a self-teaching tape. That’s how I taught myself.”
Ken’s MS also means he has mobility issues. “I’ve been in the wheelchair for five years.” He used to love hunting, fishing, and camping but his balance started to go. That doesn’t mean, however, that he doesn’t get some walking in, “I have a treadmill that I won’t part with. We put it out in the common area. I go on that as much as possible to try and stay active. I can hang on tight to the sides and walk.”
He also gets out in the Summer a lot. “I have an electric horse and I bomb around town. It’s been my transportation since 1995. We used to raise horses and I had a stallion named Blaze, so I named my electric horse Blaze,” he chuckles.
He also mentions that it’s only ever let him down twice, “Once, I was visiting at the hospital and coming back it just quit. I looked at the motor and the brushes were shot. So, I phoned my friend and he drove out and towed me home.” There are even photos on the wall capturing the moment of Ken on ‘Blaze’ being towed by a rope, taken by another friend who passed by.
Ken’s farm, where the original Blaze resided, was with his now ex-wife, not too far from Wetaskiwin. “We raised horses. We would take them to the mountains or the bush for a weekend, just for the fun of it,” he says. They have two children, a daughter in Wetaskiwin and a son (and grandkids) in Cold Lake.
“My daughter is in the DSL in Wetaskiwin Meadows. She had an operation and it affected her mind. She’s only 52.” His ex-wife moved into the housing side of Wetaskiwin Meadows. “We’re quite the Bethany Group family,” he smiles.
When Ken first moved into Kiwanis Kourt, it was an adjustment. “Took a while to get used to it. Half the size of what I had but once I got used to the size, it was great.” He also likes the people and get-togethers and meals they all have. “I like it. I have quite the gift of the gab; people sometimes have difficulties understanding me but it doesn’t stop me from talking.”
It’s been a diverse and interesting road for Ken, along with some challenges but as he chats he still has a twinkle in his eye.
Meet Linda Watt from Lacombe Lodge
Linda Watt has lived in the area all her life; she was born in Rimbey and lived in Alix and Red Deer. “My relatives are Rimbeys. The town is actually named after my grandmother’s brothers.”
Raised on a ranch, Linda comes from a large family of 13 children. A twin, Linda can’t imagine life without being surrounded by family. She remains in contact with her other siblings, especially her sister in Ontario. “She’s hoping to come up for my birthday. I’m turning 90,” she says with a smile. Like many of her generation, Linda had two brothers in the war. Her twin brother died more recently around the time she moved in the lodge.
Growing up in a large family on a ranch can be difficult. “I went to a two-room school in Tees where it was Grade 1 to 12,” she remembers. “Our mom made our clothes and I remember we had a big garden. We never went without the necessities.”
She also loves to dance, starting when her parents took them to dances when she was growing up. She continued dancing until she couldn’t anymore because of her breathing.
Linda was also quite active throughout her life, playing basketball and curling. Nowadays, she loves watching curling on TV, “Some people think it’s like watching paint dry but I love it.”
She was married in 1947 and continued the tradition of having a large family by raising eight children. Today she has 16 grandchildren and 21 great grandchildren.
Linda laughs when she says her family celebrates her every five years, “We went to a dinner theatre in Edmonton on my 75th birthday. On my 80th they had a party for me and my brother at the hall in Tees. On my 85th we had a social in Red Deer. I’m not sure what they’ve planned this year.”
While her husband “wasn’t really a traveller,” they did do a lot of camping in the mountains. Her son also worked for CN in B.C. so she used to visit him quite a bit.
Life in the lodge is quieter for Linda. “I can’t do exercises so much. I play Bingo because I can sit and play,” she says. While she used to stay active by walking into town, her health and breathing has placed some limits on her. “I still walk to keep the joints moving.”
Coming from a large family, Linda says, “I couldn’t live alone. I enjoy all the people at the lodge.” She remarks about some people who just complain and are unhappy. She considers her own life quite a lucky one until her eldest daughter died in 2004, “I miss her so much.” However, she still believes there’s a simple secret to happiness.
“Live with what you’re given even if it’s hard. You’ve got good memories.”
Meet Margaret Glew from Penhold
While Margaret Glew stayed near her home town of Caroline most of her life, she did have some adventures.
After moving to Edmonton, she took employment in the Food & Housing system for large construction sites, like the Tar Sands at Fort McMurray. Her first job was after a fire in 1984 at the extraction plant. During that time, there were nearly 4,000 construction workers to house and feed.
Over her 25 years working with the company, she saw a few changes. For starters, a woman’s residence that had windows to the north. “We used to see the northern lights a lot. Our residence was on the third floor. Before bed, you’d turn the lights off and just watch. Some nights they were just beautiful.”
While there was little spare time: “You worked 10 hour shifts, had supper and went back to your room,” Margaret took up a few hobbies to keep her busy. In her spare time she sat tatting, embroidering, crocheting, or cross stitching. “I have to be busy,” she says. “I sit down to watch the news and I’m knitting. I just can’t sit.” Even when she was sick and couldn’t do much, she still made a quilt that she calls her “Misery Quilt,”
Another one of her hobbies is painting, evidenced by the many canvases and paintings in her living room. “I’ve painted for quite a while. I mostly paint from memory, just sit down and whatever comes. When I get in the mood to paint, the afternoon is gone.”
After her time up north, Margaret moved back to her home area. Living in Penhold, she is close to her 13 grandchildren and 13 great grandchildren. While four of her children live in the area, she also has a daughter up North. “We see each other a lot and are always in touch.”
“It’s excellent here,” she says about living in Penhold. “We have everything here. Doctor, dentist, food, church. They’re very good to seniors too. Both the grocery store and the pharmacy will deliver if you need it.” When she first moved into town, she remembers that there were empty fields. Now there are houses and development out to the highway and beyond.
“In 1945 when we lived in Caroline, it was very different,” Margaret remembers. “It was nothing to see a moose or a bear walking around. It was more wilderness really.” She also comments that her grandkids laugh when she tells them what life was like growing up, going to a two-room school and having one teacher for Grades 1-6. “We walked three miles to school and didn’t have a school bus until I was in Grade 8.”
“I remember you would come home in June after walking from school to home in the rain. You came home wet, got changed, then you’d go down to find the cows to milk them … and you’d be wet again,” she laughs.
Today, it’s much drier and quieter for her, though she does stay busy with her family. More of a homebody now, she does say about her life, “It was an adventure.”
Meet Margie Stewart from Autumn Glen Lodge in Innisfail
Margie Stewart is filled with a bubbly energy that fills her room at Autumn Glen Lodge. She laughs easily when speaking about her life and adventures.
“I found an old coffee shop and hotel, decided to buy it and raised my family there,” she says. Her family included her husband and two children. They owned the hotel for five years before selling it and moving into Innisfail, where she built a coffee shop.
“That was 40 years ago. I was young and naïve back then, must’ve wanted hard work.”
She also laughs about her son’s stories growing up at the hotel. “He jokes to everyone that all he ever got fed was a fired egg sandwich and a big piece of carrot cake, and that’s why he doesn’t like it now. He loves to tease me about it.”
Her family is still close today, getting together for birthdays and meals quite often. The family has expanded as well with four grandchildren and four great grandkids. “There’s a fifth on the way, maybe next week,” Margie says. “We’re not sure what it will be but it’s very exciting. I’m hoping for a girl.”
She also compliments her family stating, “They all take care of the old folks. We’re so lucky. Some here don’t have anyone.”
Margie is not one to sit still. She says, “I get bored if I have an hour with nothing to do.” It explains her various hobbies, which includes colouring, crocheting, knitting, and reading. She picks things up and moves on as her interests’ dictate, like forming the local Red Hat Society.
“It was the fad back then, that’s why I started it. Every town had a group of ladies. We’ve been all over, done some road trips.”
While the society may not do much community work, they do send a cheque to people in need. The rest of their time is spent “going to every restaurant in mid Alberta.” They’ve been going for 10 years once a month to a different restaurant. “There’s about 20 of us. It’s a different group of ladies, so that’s nice.”
When not discovering a new restaurant, visiting family, or keeping occupied at home, Margie visit friends for coffee. She used to swim in the mornings as well but recently stopped going.
She’s also done a lot of travelling. “I’ve travelled everywhere. The kids lived all over the world so I got to go and visit.” On her list of places visited are Honduras, where she spent 3 months last winter at her daughter’s home on the ocean, Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong, Australia, and Mexico – just to name a few. However, she feels happy to be at home now, “You get to a point where you don’t want to go anymore. Carting the medicine and the air tank just gets to be a pain.”
It’s a good thing then that she likes living at the lodge. “So fortunate to have a place like this to live. It is my home, not my home away from home.” She moved over from Dodds Lake Manor when her back caused her a lot of issues. “It got to where I couldn’t clean my bathroom. The girls her come in to clean the bathroom. How fortunate can you be,” she says with a smile.
The room is much smaller than her previous homes but as she explains, she’s downsized three or four times already before her move into the lodge. Her room is “adequate and enough for me.”
Margie also still drives so is able to maintain her independence. “You don’t know when you get up in the morning what you’re going to do, it’s always a surprise.”
Margie has no intentions of moving again, except for one place
“My next move is into the Drambuie bottle. I’ll be cremated and put into the bottle. We were just joking but I looked it up and you can actually be put into a Drambuie bottle.”
Meet Mary from Bashaw Meadows
Like many older Albertans, Mary* grew up on a farm. Her family’s farm near Buffalo Lake focused on range cattle though she remembers they had a few dairy cows as well, “We would keep one milk cow in winter but in summer it was all hand on deck to milk all the cows.”
Her father was born in Tipperary and her mother was Scottish, both early settlers in Alberta. “I remember my dad sang a lot and whistled Irish ditties,” she remembers.
Growing up in the 1930s, everyone rode horses rather than drove including to school dances every Friday night in the summer. Kids for the schools around the lake would all gather to dance the night away.
Having no vehicles also meant making a trip by horse to Donalda to haul coal for the winter. Her father kept a barn full of horses that were shod and used in the winter, especially if her mother was joining him for the trek. They were lucky in that they had a large basement so often they made the trip in the fall rather than hauling the coal in winter. As she says, “it was a big deal to get coal for winter.”
When she got married, Mary and her husband had their own farm that focused on assorted grains. However, the family farm she grew up on is still going strong. “My nephew has the farm now. He has a 100 years plaque for the farm.”
While her husband worked on the rigs, Mary took care of the farm. Their children took the bus into Bashaw for school. Mary also later cooked at the hospital in Bashaw. “It was always full in the late 60s. They had some good doctors.”
Living near Bashaw most of her life, it made sense when Mary decided to retire there. She first moved into Bashaw Valley Lodge before she and the other residents moved into the new facility, Bashaw Meadows, a year ago.
“I’m settled in now I think. At first it felt like a hotel. The staff are so nice too.”
One of her sons lives in Bashaw but travels a lot for work. She also has grandkids “all over the place. One working in Russia. Lot in Calgary. Some farm nearby and show cattle.”
While her eye sight isn’t the best anymore, she does still try to knit and read. She would knit scarves for men working on the rigs. “I made them to fit under their vests so they wouldn’t be a safety problem.”
For entertainment she enjoys the exercises in the morning, playing roller ball after breakfast, sometimes watching a movie in the afternoon. She particularly loves it when Bashaw Meadows have visiting entertainers on Wednesdays. As well, with great grandchildren ranging from grades one to six, she also enjoys seeing their plays at school or church.
While it has been an adjustment for Mary moving from a farm to a lodge and then from one lodge to a new facility, she adapts and remains positive and cheerful, “Everything changes. Nothing stays the same.”
Meet Mary McLean from Bowden
Before Mary McLean settled in the bedroom community of Bowden, she lived in the busy city of Calgary.
“I worked in finance; in the collections dept. Collections isn’t bad at all, as long as you work with the people. I was collecting millions a year and met a lot of nice people. It was very rewarding.”
After working through a few acquisitions, Mary retired but she didn’t settle down right away. Instead, she put her things in storage or sold them and took her car to several places in Canada and the USA. “I was a gypsy for two years,” she says. Though her trusty car became her home, she “always had a bed to sleep in.”
She says of her adventures, “I love travelling and exploring new places. I had the time finally where I wasn’t on a schedule and I could spend quality time with family and friends.” Family and friends include her daughter in Bowden, a son in Calgary, another daughter who then lived in London, Ontario, and a son in Oregon.
While she’s been all over Canada and pretty much every state in the United States, there are many places she’d like to visit. “I would love to go to Greece and Athens, and sail down the Nile. Argentina would be another place I’d like to go. It’s just not feasible right now with the Canadian dollar.”
She also fondly remembers one visit to Yuma over Christmas, “My friend and I traveled Canada and the USA in an RV and stopping at different points to visit family. When arriving to visit my parents for Christmas in Yuma, which was very different because there was no snow, my mom who was an avid musician, was put on the back of a golf cart with a keyboard on her lap, also put antlers on our dog, Sheba, then we drove around the community while Mom played and we sang Christmas songs.”
While she travelled visiting family and friends, she used her daughter’s address in Bowden as her own, which ultimately led her to move to the community. “It’s a bedroom community with no stores and no handibus, which makes it very hard for people who don’t drive to get anywhere.”
For those living in Bowden, their options are to drive to Innsifail or Olds for their groceries or activities. As Mary says, “I tend to go to Olds more because they have bigger stores. But my doctor and pharmacist are in Innisfail.” With driving being a necessity, it’s no surprise some don’t want to settle in the quaint town.
Mary is also passionate about making things better in her community. “It’s hard to get people to do anything. We need people on council to have some foresight to change things. It’s a nice little town but it needs some work.” Though her health, at present, makes it difficult to get more involved, Mary is trying with the FCSS, and the board members of the Centre, to do something with the Friendship Centre that would utilize the craft and games rooms currently not being used. She also tries to keep busy by staying involved with the Church.
Life has always been busy, and sometimes hard, for Mary though, being a divorcee, she raised her children on her own for the most part. “We had tough times, but had a roof over our heads and food on the table but we had each other, which is most important. There is a lot you can do with Kraft Dinner” she says with a chuckle. Mary was diagnosed with lung cancer, but showed that cancer can be beaten.
While Bowden is a far cry from the bustle of Calgary or the adventures of travelling, Mary is happy in her home with good neighbours, “We are like family and watch out for one another”. You never know what your thoughts will bring,” she says.
Meet Nellie Bond from Lacombe Lodge
Nellie Bond comes from a small family, one brother and her. Growing up during the s the depression and things were hard but Nellie always remembers it fondly, especially visiting her grandfather’s farm, “My parents sent me on a train every summer to go to my grandfather’s farm. The only farming I did was teasing my grandfather’s turkey, Gobbler.”
A war buddy of her father’s let them live in his house when they moved to B.C. She remembers her father walking the equivalent of Lacombe to Red Deer searching for work. “He got a job at a dairy farm and we lived in a shack. They paid $100 for two beds, dresser, and a dining table and chairs. Her mother cleaned with cold tea leaves and made shampoo from the saved soap pieces. A special treat was home-made marshmallows.
“I never felt ashamed to bring anyone home. It was always welcoming. My mom kept a good house, she was a wonderful housekeeper.” She chuckles and remembers, “Friends of my parents would come over to play cards. My mom would put newspapers under his chair because he smoked a pipe and made a mess of it.”
Her sense of humour is prevalent when talking to Nellie, especially as she is accompanied by her daughter Lynda who is equally filled with mirth. The two trade stories and memories while filling the room with laughter. Lynda is quick to point out that she’s the “good child who was never bad.” She just never told her mom everything she did.
Nellie points to a little porcelain dog sitting on the shelf, the first thing her husband gave to her. “I was posted to Toronto. I met my husband on 122 Front Street across from Union Station. He was a new corporal with red hair and medals. He was from Belfast.” Lynda adds, “The spot is now a fire hydrant,” as the two laugh again.
Her husband came from a military family. “He had a swagger stick that came from his grandfather when he was in Hong Kong.” Nellie also never minded the moving part of the army. ”If you didn’t get rid of it, like garbage, they packed it,” she laughs.
“I remember the first inspection we had when Lynda was two. I scrubbed for two days to make the place spotless. They came along, poked their head in and said ‘fine’. I was so mad.” Lynda adds that their house was always spotless.
When she joined the army, she was posted on the switchboard. “The one in Quesnel, BC had red balls on the board. When someone called, a black ball would drop down. Long distance was a radio. When I joined the army, there was this wall with lights flashing everywhere.”
When Nellie moved into Lacombe Lodge, it was during the coldest few days of winter. Lynda remembers everyone being helpful and opening the doors for them. While Nellie was disappointed in the room size at first she says, “I love the location, and everything fits in here.”
“It’s clean here, the food is good, the staff excellent,” comments Nellie. She follows up with, “You get all the health food here so when you go out, you want greasy food. Sometimes you just want something bad, to live it up.”
As the stories and conversation wrap up, both women take a pause from the laughter. Nellie smiles at Linda and says, “Lynda visits a lot. She’s a good one.” Lynda picks up three teddy bears on Nellie’s bed that represent Linda and her two brothers. Hers is somewhat angelic looking.
“The boys were always doing something. We have fun though. We just sit back and listen to them,” says Lynda. Nellie adds that her son Dave has a theory about the family, “He says we’re all crazy and that’s why we get along.” Lynda finishes the sentence, “Normal is relative and none of our relatives are normal.”
The laughter fills the room and the hallway.
Meet Roy Fearon from the Crossroads Day Program in Camrose
Roy Fearon has been coming to the Crossroads Adult Day Program in Camrose since 1999. He jokes, “I’ll graduate one day I guess.”
Roy grew up in the RCAF and joined the Air Force himself when he was old enough. He spent six years in the dental corp. “I graduated from the U of A in ’68 and was a dental officer in a few places.” He joined in Edmonton and was stationed in Calgary and then in Alsask, Saskatchewan.
“Alseth is an isolated radar site. There were a few families in the middle of nowhere. In those days, I guess they had enough dentists they could post them to remote places,” he chuckles. He also spent time in Camp Borden in Ontario before coming out to Camrose in 1975.
Roy grew up in Edmonton and returned there after leaving service. However, he soon made his way to Camrose. “I had a classmate who was selling his practice in Camrose and I thought it was ideal,” he says. So, he moved and set up his dentist practice.
He also chuckles and remembers, “I was a jogger and I would go on early runs around Camrose. I saw this farm on one of my runs just east of Camrose and decided to buy it.” He ran the farm with the help of a “Saskatchewan fella” who bought farm equipment and ran the farm. Meanwhile, Roy pursued his hobby and passion of raising horses.
“We did sleigh rides and hay rides all the time. We would take Buck and Barney out wherever we were asked by community groups at no charge.”
Roy provided rides to all sorts of community groups over the years, including the Scouts and 4H. “I wrote the horses off as a PR thing,” he says.
He eventually sold the farm when he and his first wife moved into town. When they divorced, he was “lucky enough to be introduced to my second wife by a patient,” he smiles. He then built a house with his second wife just a few doors down from his first one.
Roy continued to be involved in the community but also has a dental practice to take care of. “I enjoyed doing dentistry. A lot of people came to be because I was gentle. I still get people who tell me they liked me as their dentist.” He held his practice until his stroke.
“I had a stroke during a dental procedure in 1998. I was taken out of the practice on a stretcher. It was certainly not the way I thought I’d retire.”
While it was a sudden end to his practice, Roy does mention that “Camrose is a good place to have a stroke. There’s lots of supports here. I think it’s actually harder on my wife because she has to do all the housework.”
Roy’s stroke has left him with no feeling in the left side of his body, which he says gets neglected in some ways because he doesn’t feel anything there. He also says, “I have most of my memories, though recent ones are harder. Sometimes I think my wife thinks I have selective memory.” The last he says with an impish smile and chuckle.
“Strokes are funny things,” he explains. “It’s a brain injury and everyone has different symptoms.” Expanding on his ‘selective’ memory, he comments that he can remember characters and details in books with no problems but has to pause and think about what he did at Crossroads when one of his attendants asks him the next day.
Speaking of books, Roy is a passionate reader. “I like reading the ’20 Questions About You’ in the paper and the ‘what’s the last book you couldn’t put down’ section. I think for me that would be the Clifton series by Jeffrey Archer.” He goes on to list several authors he loves including, James Patterson, Michael Crichton, Dick Francis, and Robin Cook. He also uses google maps to look up communities mentioned in the books, even though he claims he isn’t that good with computers.
As for his community involvement, Roy still participates in Rotary. “I’ve been with rotary 30 years, since 1985. I can’t hold office anymore but I still try to go to meetings on Monday.” During his time with Rotary, Roy has served as Councillor for the exchange students and helped with the youth program. After his stroke, he helped organize a district conference in Camrose.
“I enjoyed doing things with the youth program. I figure it’s because I haven’t grown up yet.”
His involvement with the exchange program also led to him travelling to Norway, Germany, and France. He brought his daughter with him who met the son of Roy’s rotary friend and the two stayed in contact. In 1998, they got married and she moved to Norway. “I talk to Wendy on Skype on Tuesdays. We get a good visit in.”
While Tuesdays is for Skyping, Mondays and Wednesdays are for the Crossroads program. “I really enjoy it,” Roy says. “It’s not hard to get up on those days. Usually, I like to read in bed or sleep in.” He continues, “The program keeps you going; it’s unique and individual with artistic and mental stimulation, and it accommodates all ranges and helps in different ways.” The hardest time of year for Roy is in the Summer when the program is closed for two weeks.
At the program, Roy does a variety of activities but it means more than that to him.
“I sure enjoy the social aspect. It becomes like a family.”
Meet William Carleton from Autumn Glen Lodge in Innisfail
An ex Air Force Engineer, William Carleton has travelled the world, “I’ve been to Ireland, Scotland, Wales. Flew in the Middle East and the Congo. Been to Resolute Bay. Everywhere from Goose Bay, Labrador to Prescott, Scotland.”
William was born in Ontario, where his older brother and younger sister still reside. He joined the Air Force and got his wings in Trenton, but it wasn’t long before he was flying all over the place during his 10 years with the Force. “I was stationed in the UK in ’54-’56, in the Midlands. We would visit Plymouth and Nottingham, as well as other places,” he says.
Since leaving, William hasn’t travelled back but says he’d “like to visit the old haunts again. Maybe go back to Nottingham. I liked it there.”
While William may not be part of the Air Force any longer, he is still part of the Air Force Association – 703 Wing. He served as a Flight Engineer, which he describes as, “If anything goes wrong when you’re airborne, that guy has to know what to do. We had a few experiences.”
After leaving the Air Force, William didn’t continue with engineering but opted for the hospitality industry. He managed hotels in Collingwood and Edmonton before working as a Food and Beverage Manager.
William originally came to Alberta to stay with his brother, who was ill. Six months later, his brother died but William decided to stay in the area. Today, he remains close to his sister in Ontario, talking to her a lot on the phone. Though he hasn’t been out to see her much, she comes out to visit.
Life at Autumn Glen Lodge is quieter for William. “It can get downright boring,” he chuckles. While life may be a bit mundane at times, William likes living at the lodge, “Living her is good. Staff are really good.”
William spends quite a lot of his time at the lodge in the games area, playing cards or doing puzzles. As he sits chatting, he absent mindedly shuffles a deck of cards. Not surprisingly, William plays cards at the local Legion every Tuesday. One of his old Air Force buddies also plays at the Legion. As William says, the legion is his “favourite place.”
When not playing cards, you can find William watching sports. “I’m a real sports nut. I used to be really active,” he says. “My legs are no good now though. Too many years of being a downhill skier or playing hockey.” He played hockey for years and loved it but mentions, “I wasn’t good enough play in the big time.”
William may not be able to play sports anymore but he still finds ways to be active and get out. “I have a scooter that I scoot around town on a lot. I also walk to stay active.” When not out and about, he likes to read, mostly Western books he explains.
Reflecting on his life, William says with a smile, “I’ve had quite an eventful life. No regrets … well, maybe a few.”