Millet's Pioneer Women 2017
Mary McIntosh (Manson) Dowdell
Good afternoon everyone and welcome to the 2016 Pioneer Woman induction. Today, I am excited to be honoring Mrs. Mary Dowdell and sharing all that I have learned about this amazing woman. Living at the turn of the century was not an easy time for a woman. As they were not seen as persons under the law and therefore unable to vote and work. But Mary defied these stereotypes. She was an extremely strong-willed woman that could do anything she set her mind to. She was a graduate of prestigious universities, a great debater, and on top of it all, a generally kind and loving lady.
Born in Jamestown, Scotland on April 22nd, 1890 to James and Catherine Manson. Mary grew up in Scotland with her seven younger siblings, and attended the Vale of Leven Academy where she graduated with exceptional grades in 1909. Upon graduation, she decided to carry on with her education, and attended the University of Glasgow, taking courses in Mathematics and English as well as getting her Scotch teaching certificates.
Mary’s father worked as a stone mason in Scotland, but was struggling to find work, so in 1911 he decided to move to Canada with two of Mary’s younger siblings in his search for work. Two years later, in 1913, Mary, her mother, and the rest of her siblings joined their father in Edmonton.
While living in Edmonton, Mary attended The University of Alberta, working towards her Bachelor of Arts, then moving on to complete her Master’s degree in Classics. During this time, she also obtained her teaching certificates in Canada. Mary spent time working at schools in Nanton and Millet, while also directing plays at the school in West Liberty.
Mary was older when she got married. Mary and Charles wed in 1928, when Mary was 38 and Charles was 31. She then moved to his farm where she immediately took on the tasks of being a house wife. Mary spent much of her time tending to the livestock, whether it was feeding the pigs, collecting eggs from the chickens or milking the cows. She enjoyed cooking and baking as well, and many would say that she was an incredible cook.
In her spare time, Mary enjoyed holding political meetings in her house with members of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, as she was a large advocate for them. Mary saw the importance of keeping educated, so she struck a deal with the Edmonton Public Library where they would mail her all of the information they had on upcoming government projects and policies. Mary was as strong willed as she was educated. If she came across a plan that she disagreed with, she made sure that it was known. When Mary heard that the Alberta government had planned to drill at Wizard Lake, she was extremely displeased as this was her family’s favourite place to go fishing. She demanded a meeting with the people in charge of this project. At this meeting, she began to advocate for the cancellation of the drilling and proceeded to produce facts about all the negative impacts that it would have on the lake and the surrounding community. This meeting with Mary made the council members cancel the drilling and also reconsider and revise their drilling procedures.
Although Mary and Charles did not have a family of their own, they always held their doors open to friends and family. When Mary’s brother William died, Mary invited her nine year old niece Dora to stay with them for a year and even ensured that she continued her education at West Liberty School. Mary and Charles’ nieces and nephews were always welcome to stay with them during the summer for a visit and to assist Charles with the chores on the farms. Just down the road from the Dowdell farm lived a young bachelor who was always invited for holiday meals at the Dowdell’s house. Mary frequently boarded young new school teachers while they were still getting on their feet.
Mary and Charles lived on their farm until 1972 when the couple decided to retire and move to Wetaskiwin. Early in 1978 Mary fell ill and was transferred from her home to the Wetaskiwin hospital, then again to the University of Alberta hospital where she passed in July of 1978 at the age of 88.
Mary (Manson) Dowdell was a strong, independent woman that definitely was before her time. I believe that she deserves the title of Pioneer woman because she helped to pave the path for women today. She shows women that when you stand up for what you believe in you can accomplish anything.
Bernice (Wotherspoon) Knight
Hello I am pleased to present to you today, Bernice Knight as one of our 2016 Pioneer Woman!
Bernice Knight “The Flower Lady” was a key component in bringing Communities in Bloom to Millet. She has a passion for gardening and through this creative outlet, she brought forth her ideas to beautify and improve Millet. Bernice credits her success to all the volunteers and helpers she has had over the years which speaks volume to her character but deep down we all can agree that she has played a monumental role in beautifying the town.
Bernice was born on April 16, 1946. She was the middle child with three siblings, Gaye, Malcom and her youngest sister, Jacqueline. When Bernice was young, she spent her time caring for calves on her family’s dairy farm. It was her job to bottle feed them. Here is where her love of the outdoors grew. When she was 16, she met the love of her life Roger Knight. They got married on September 18, 1965 and eventually welcomed two children, Stephen and Melissa, into their lives. The family soon wanted a change of pace and decided to move to Canada from New Zealand.
They settled in Edmonton and lived there for 12 years until moving south of Millet. They bought an acreage and this is where Roger built a greenhouse for Bernice to plant her flowers. As an avid gardening enthusiast, Bernice was instrumental in involving Millet in the National Communities in Bloom competition. Bernice and Roger decided to beautify the town with flower baskets after being inspired by their vacation to Leavenworth, Washington.
After two years, the baskets were blooming. She had help from butterfly boutique and many volunteer’s. It was so effective that the Town Council entered into Communities in Bloom. Millet won provincials in 1997, and the whole community was proud that their hard work was noticed.
The Memorial rose garden was an idea created when she wanted to plant a rose in honor of her mother and discover that other community members wanted to do the same. The Memorial rose garden was created. The Burns Creamery rock garden was another project that Bernice was a part of, helping the Millet Museum.
In 2000, Bernice became the Western Canada liaison for Communities in Bloom where she would travel Alberta and British Columbia talking with towns to invite them to get involved. She has won many awards through her exceptional volunteerism like the Queens Golden Jubilee medal as well as a special recognition award given to her in 2015.
Today Bernice resides in Edmonton. She is still giving back to her community by beautifying the condominium building she lives at. Bernice is an exceptional lady who can organize, create, and inspire those around her. For these reasons, Bernice Knight is one of Millet’s 2016 Pioneer Woman.
Barbara Jean (Parker) Linaker
Salutations, it is my honor to present at this induction to the 2016 Millet Pioneer Woman Barbara Jean Linaker. Barbara is a woman who has been an integral part of Millet. . From her passion for volunteering, in particular with the United Church and the Lions Club, to her term as Town Councilor in Millet, Barbara has had an immense effect on the community. Through both volunteerism and political involvement, Barbara has worked to improve the lives of others in the community. Barbara has pioneered new programs and services when she has seen a need, such as her involvement in beginning the Millet Kindergarten Class. Without people such as Barbara, it is safe to say Millet would not be the community it is today.
Barbara was born on December 20, 1931 in Cardiff, Alberta. Barbara was the second of four children, with an older sister, Shirley and two younger siblings, Brian and Kathleen. Growing up, Barbara enjoyed hunting and playing in the pasture. She spent much of her childhood in the mining towns of Cardiff and Nordegg, following her father’s job opportunities with the coal mines. Even as a child, Barbara had a strong sense of justice, getting into fights to protect those who were being bullied, such as her little sister, Kathleen.
In order to assist with living expenses after her father had died, Barbara sought employment. Initially, Barbara started working at the Metropolitan Department Store, but eventually began to work at Woodward’s. There she worked in shoe department, then the credit office, and even modeled for the company. While working at Woodward’s, Barbara met her first husband, John Hinch, with whom Barbara had two children, Gregory and Kathleen. After 17 years of marriage, the couple divorced in 1970.
On January 31, 1971 Barbara went on a blind date with Laurie Linaker. This began a whirlwind romance which resulted in the two marrying on April 10, 1971. Though initially Barbara and her two children moved into Laurie’s two story apartment with him and his three children, the family found themselves needing more space. On September 7, 1971, Barbara and Laurie decided to move the family to an acreage just west of Millet. For the first five years of their marriage, Barbara stayed at home until their youngest, Kathleen, started school. During those five years, Barbara remained busy. Her responsibilities included tending two large gardens, and she assisted in caring for the livestock. Once her youngest was in school, Barbara accepted a position at the Wetoka Health Unit, where she worked as a Business Administrator from 1977 until 1996 when it closed down.
Along with working at the health unit and raising five children, Barbara was heavily involved in the community as well. One group that Barbara was a large part of was the Millet and District Early Childhood Services; she was a member of the parent group that helped to launch the Kindergarten Class in Millet, and she served as the Equipment Chair. Barbara was a part of both the Lions of Millet and the Lionesses of Millet. She was a Charter Member, President and Director of the Lionesses. The Lionesses disbanded in approximately 1992, at which point Barbara and many of the Lionesses joined the Lions. For the Lions, she became a Club Historian, Director and Chair of the Lions Scholarship Committee. As a member of the Scholarship Committee, Barbara assisted in reviewing applications for those who applied for the Lion’s Scholarship. As Laurie was the coordinator for Lion’s Club Youth Exchange, Barbara assisted him in coordinating homes for exchange students. The students that stayed at the Linaker’s home for the exchange became family to them, with Barbara staying in contact with them to this day.
The United Church in Millet held a special place in Barbara’s heart. She was an active volunteer for the Church from 1976 until she moved to Manitoba in 2007. She taught Sunday school and organized picnics and hayrides.
Looking to further service her community, Barbara entered politics. From 2004 until 2007, Barbara was a Town Councilor for Millet. Throughout this span she was a part of various committees, where she attended meetings and helped shape policy to benefit the town.
Not content to keep idle, Barbara expanded her network of volunteerism further. Barbara and Laurie were both a part of the Seniors Home and Community Housing Committee. The couple attended meetings and made decisions in regards to several Senior’s lodging facilities in Millet, Wetaskiwin, and area. During her time in Millet, Barbara also volunteered at the Millet Scout Association and the Millet Museum. She was a volunteer treasurer and auditor of the books at the Scout Association, and she audited books at the Museum.
In 2007 Barbara and Laurie left Millet in order to be closer to family in Pilot Mound, Manitoba. Barbara remains active in a quilting group, and as a Lions Club Member. In fact, Barbara’s involvement with the Pilot Mound United Church, in particular as Chair of the church Council for the past 8 years, prevents her from being here today, as she must attend the final church service this Sunday.
Barbara’s family knows her as a woman who takes pride in everything she does. She has taught her children and grandchildren that family sticks together through thick and thin. For her passionate service work, and her continuous commitment to the betterment of the community, it is an honour to present her as one of Millet’s 2016 Pioneer Women.
Deborah (Brennan) Mardy
Hello again everyone. I am pleased to present Deborah Mardy, better known as Debbie, as another of our 2016 Pioneer Women inductees. I was excited when I got the opportunity to learn more about this incredible woman, and I am even more excited to share it all with you. Deborah Mardy was always a passionate member of her community. She spent much of her time volunteering and working hard to make the community a better place to be. She never took on a task that she didn’t think she could complete, so naturally, she took on a lot.
Debbie Brennan was born and raised in Millet, along with her 5 siblings, by her mother Ruth and father Ray Brennan. Even growing up, Debbie tried to better her community. With her seventh grade class, they had decided to compile a book of all the stories from all of the pioneers in the Millet area. They then sold the book and donated all of the money to the Millet School for them to build a play ground.
Debbie and Raymond Mardy were high school sweethearts. They met in 1965, and married just after graduation in 1969. In 1971, the couple welcomed their first daughter, Lorrie. Their second daughter, Dawn, came in 1974 and finally, their son, Stephen in 1979. Even while raising her children, she was looking to help her community. She continued to serve as a member of council for the Village of Millet, and was elected as mayor in 1978. Although she only served for one year as mayor, she continued to serve in the local government as the School Board Trustee. From 1991 until 2001 she served as the representative of the Yellowhead Regional Library System on the Alberta Library Trustees Association where she was Secretary Treasurer during this time.
Debbie was one of the founding board members of the Millet Kindergarten class and acted as treasurer for the class for nine years. With her background in banking, this made her a perfect candidate to act as treasurer for many organized sports including curling, hockey and baseball. Debbie also spent time as a dispatcher for the Millet Fire department for twenty eight years. In 1987, Debbie and Ray opened their arms and doors for the Lions club exchange program were they hosted a student from Japan..
The church was always a big part of Debbie’s life. She was a member of the St. Norbert’s Catholic Church until they disbanded in 2012. While attending this church, she was part of the Catholic Women’s League, taught catechism in Sunday school, acted as treasurer for the church and volunteered for their St. Patrick’s Day teas and many of their bingos.
Debbie is a fun-loving, hard-working and honest individual. I believe she is an excellent example of a Pioneer Woman for all of the amazing things she does for this town and for the incredible example she leads for others.
Muriel Clara (Kerr) Wilson
Hello and welcome, today I am thrilled to be able to present to you my 2016 Pioneer Woman Muriel Clara (Kerr) Wilson. Throughout her life Muriel has been a fundamental part in building community resources and preserving the historical aspects of Millet. She was a member of many community groups which allowed her to help those less fortunate than herself and created community resources that will be used for generations to come. Along with being a part of these community groups Muriel was a dedicated farm wife as she helped her husband, George, breed and sell their cattle. It is my honor today to be able to share Muriel’s story with you.
On May 24, 1929 Muriel was born in Millet, Alberta to Kenneth and Clara Kerr. Muriel grew up in a large family with seven older siblings and one younger. The family lived in a home on one of the main streets in Millet near Kenneth’s machinery shop. Muriel spent most of her younger years playing games such as Kick the Can and Hide and Seek in the back lane with her siblings and other neighborhood children. As she got older Muriel enjoyed working in her father’s machinery shop and driving tractors and other large pieces of machinery.
After graduation, Muriel got a job picking fruit in the Okanagan. When she decided to move back to Alberta, she applied for a job at Woodward’s. While working there Muriel met George Wilson, who was a manager there at the time. On July 29, 1961 Muriel and George were married. Although neither of them had ever lived on a farm, they both loved the outdoors and wanted a new experience. In 1962, they decided to buy a farm and start breeding and selling pure-bred cattle.
When not working on the farm Muriel was involved in many organizations in and around Millet. As a member of The Order of the Eastern Star Muriel was shown that she should try to help those around her as much as she could by offering her services to them with no questions asked. This idea was something that Muriel greatly cherished. It is clear in her actions that she did not just believe it but lived it. As a member of the United Church Women Muriel enjoyed the opportunities it gave her to help those around her and she enjoy holding teas so that this group was able to run. Muriel and her husband George also helped to create the agricultural society when Muriel saw the need for a skating rink in Millet.
Along with working in these groups Muriel had a large role in two of The Millet and District Historical Society’s large projects. When the society decided to create a book telling of the history of Millet Muriel joined the book committee and even came up with the name “Tales and Trails of Millet”. Muriel’s leadership then came to the forefront as the Manager of The Manor Committee. This group worked tirelessly to get the John A. Smith Manor here in Millet. Once the manor opened Muriel was given the title of Manageress and she stayed in this position from 1983 to 1995.
George and Muriel stayed on their farm until 2013. Then, they moved into Wetaskiwin, Alberta. Although, George passed away on January 27, 2015, Muriel still lives at Sunrise Village in the apartment they had shared together. When they were not busy with social activities the couple had enjoyed traveling the world. Their favorite place to travel to though was New Zealand. They loved it there so much that they traveled back there over 10 times. Muriel also enjoyed gardening, looking after the cows, doing small handicrafts, and playing sports such as golf, curling, and ball.
Whenever Muriel saw a problem she was determined to solve it. This allowed her to be an integral part of building community resources and preserving the historical assets of Millet. She will always be remembered for the work she has done in the community and surrounding areas. Without determined Pioneer Women such as Muriel Millet would not be the same community that it is today. It is an honor to present such a strong and determined women in Millet’s 2016 Pioneer Women.