History of NWARTA
By Lorna McIlroy, NWARTA Past President
Geographically, the Northwestern Alberta Retired Teachers’ Association is the largest branch in the province. The branch area is divided by the Peace River into two separate communities, North and South Peace. After much deliberation and many meetings bouncing back and forth from South to North Peace, being held over the years in Rycroft, Spirit River, Grimshaw, Beaverlodge, Hythe, Fairview, LaGlace, Clairmont, Grande Prairie, Fairview, and Peace River, NWARTA eventually became the sixth branch of ARTA.
On June 16, 1973 a meeting was held at Harry Balfour School in Grande Prairie with Carol Garrod and Ada Lent of the Edmonton branch, and eleven retired teachers. As a result of this meeting, Beatrice St. Jean attended the ARTA AGM in Edmonton. Then on March 13, 1974 Martha Gitzel notified members that they now had 32 members, enough to start a branch. Ten days later they elected an executive with Margaret (Peggy) Smith as President, Marjorie Knapp as Vice-President, Martha Gitzel as Secretary-Treasurer and Gladys Quick as Representative to ARTA. On April 3, 1974 NWARTA received formal recognition and their charter at the ARTA Executive meeting in Calgary, officially becoming a branch of ARTA.
The Charter Members were: Ruth Bristow, Katherine Brhjell, Gertrude Bryan, Ruth Conley, Myrtle Evans, Simone Frey, Irma Gibreault, Martha Gitzel, Sister Alice Goulet, Bessie Grumbly, Viola Hopkins, Lorna Horte, Anne Johnson, Marjorie Kaiser, Marjorie Knapp, Yvonne Lange, Agnes Loberg, Grace Logan, Anna Mackey, Alice McBride, Elizabeth Moon, Bertha Moore, Mona Newton, Elmer Oliver, Inisbjorg Olsson, Olivia Patterson, Isabel Perry, Gladys Perry, Gladys Quick, Margaret Smith, Beatrice St. Jean, Kathleen Tveiten and Isabella Vass.
In 1987 Ethel White was President, Isabel Thompson was Secretary and the spring meeting was held in Grande Prairie. A September meeting was held in Spirit River where Sister Alice Goulet was honoured for her work in the organization on the occasion of her 80th birthday. Names were solicited for a planned reunion of teachers who had attended Camrose Normal School.
Subsequently Helen Sideroff replaced Ann Dixon on the pension board. The new President was Marjorie Simpson, the Vice-President was Aurelia Vangrud and Fay Boyle was the Secretary-Treasurer. In 1988, both spring and fall meetings were held in Peace River, with ARTA president Ron Rhine and his wife Kay in attendance at the spring meeting.
In 2003, the executive were all from the Grande Prairie area with Wilma Friesen as President and Paul Lemay, Cliff Mitchell, Mary Wild and Jean Polasek rounding out the executive.
NWARTA has had a proud history of service with ARTA, from Marjorie J. Simpson of Peace River serving as President in 1993, Wilma Friesen serving as Secretary while it was still an elected position to Jean Polasek, Earle Guertin, Marlene Reddekopp, Wilma Friesen and others sitting on provincial committees as well as Marlene Reddekopp serving as Vice-President, President and currently Past-President.
It should be noted that NWARTA has led the province with their participation in the local Teachers’ Convention. In 2005, NWARTA president Marlene Reddekopp negotiated a deal with the Mighty Peace Teachers’ Convention board. In return for retired teachers manning the Registration Table at convention, the retired teachers would receive a free booth to promote their association and would have a representative on the convention board. This arrangement continues with an excellent working relationship between the two groups.
The issues of distance and division continue to plague the branch. Notices of meetings and activities are circulated to all known potential members in the area. In 2012, NWARTA was pleased to obtain a Branch Initiatives grant which was used to finance a day trip by five NWARTA executive members to the North Peace communities of Peace River and Fairview where they held informational meetings for potential members. A strong focus for the future will be the development of membership opportunities for all retired teachers in north western Alberta.