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A salute to the ladies of the Legion

It has and always will be a proud and long-standing tradition that while thousands of brave men and women were away serving our Canadian colours, there are also those who were required to stay at home to tend to their families and lend their community support in many other vital ways.
Executive members of the 1974-75 Ponoka Legion Branch #66 Ladies Auxiliary shown from left to right

By Mike Rainone

For the News

It has and always will be a proud and long-standing tradition that while thousands of brave men and women were away serving our Canadian colours, there are also those who were required to stay at home to tend to their families and lend their community support in many other vital ways.

Here in Ponoka the Royal Canadian Legion Branch #66 was chartered in May 1928, while the Ladies Auxiliary was organized in the summer of 1931. Both have worked diligently together since that time to offer ongoing community support and honourable memory to the families and the soldiers who have and continue to serve overseas and on the home front in countless corridors of war and peacekeeping efforts over the past 100 historical years.

Charter members of the first Ponoka Legion Ladies’ Auxiliary included president Mabel Paterson, Secretary Dorothy Harris, and Sisters Edna Davison, Dorothy Harris, Louie Anderson, Sadie MacDonald, Ethel Allen, Augusta Harris, Evelyn McPherson, Mary Dick, Jesse Kay and Carolyn Cole. Prior to the building of the first community Legion Hall in 1946, the auxiliary meetings were held in member’s homes as well as at the Anglican Church.

The enthusiastic aims and objectives of the Legion Ladies Auxiliary were the same as the Royal Canadian Legion, striving to bring about a unity to all those who have served as well as extending an ongoing spirit of comradeship and mutual help. In the early years the ladies assisted the Legion Branch #66 by caring for the sick, preparing hampers for the tough Christmases of the 30s, hosting a delightful annual Christmas tree for the children, helping with the New Year’s dinner for the children at the Gynne Home, and hosting many funeral teas as they were required. The Legion Ladies also enjoyed helping with the renovations, expansions, and purchase of supplies for the Branch #66 hall and clubrooms.

During the Second World War the Ladies’ Auxiliary sent care parcels overseas to our soldiers, knitted for the Red Cross and War Chest, and in 1944 made a magnificent quilt out of sugar sacks and embroidered it with all the names of those who had served from the community and districts. The quilt, which was raffled for 10 cents a ticket, with the proceeds going to purchase important items for the soldiers overseas, is now proudly on display at our Fort Ostell Museum. Minutes from the 1945 to 46 meetings reported a bank account of only $15.39, but the always-keen ladies would raise nearly $25 from a Red Cross tea, sent $5 to the TB Veteran’s fund, and hosted an annual social for the many war brides who would soon arrive in the district.

Over the years the Royal Canadian Legion Branch #66 have also donated thousands of dollars to projects such as the Red Cross, Santa’s Anonymous, Salvation Army, Legion Track and Field Club, Legion Hospital Fund, Legion Command Bursary, Veteran’s Comfort Fund, Legion ball diamond, Girl Guides, High School Bursary, and on and on. As well as working closely with the Legion Branch #66 to host annual year-round events for veterans and community, the Legion Ladies over the decades have catered to hundreds of banquets, funeral teas, and bake sales. Among their favourite long-standing annual events are Easter visitations and the delivery of delightful treat baskets to the veterans at the Alberta Hospital, Northcott Lodge, and Ponoka Long Term; as well as the Alberta Hospital Veteran’s Christmas party and the presentation of courtesy poppies on Remembrance Day.

There are currently close to 70 members of the Legion Ladies Auxiliary, these consisting of mothers, wives, daughters, nieces, sisters, stepdaughters, granddaughters, great granddaughters, and widows of Legion members. The very active membership role includes: Verna Raycraft, Beryl Redman, Ada Schantz, Camilla Schmidek, Ethel Schimpf, Ethel Stretch, Alice Trennery, Elsie Wilson, Marge Ashbaugh, Joyce Goodridge, Brenda Bailey, Marion Crawford, Dorothy Houghton, Marlene Ferguson, Barbara Greshner, Connie Heck, Marion Parks, Wendy Peavoy, Lydia Prediger, Mary Spence, Blythe Spinks, Rose Stoddart, Thelma Hornby, Helen Churchill, Gail Albers, Tammy Ballantyne, Billie Bedingfield, Virginia Bengston, Anne Bidyk, Marie Bragg, Minnie Buss, Edna Cerveny, Sadie Foley, Marlene Gartner, Joyce Goodridge, Olga Hendrickson, Diane Henke, Donna Hopper, Mary Kjorlien, Gwladys Krossa, Marie Laycraft, Evena Long, Norma Mentore, Pat Myttenar, Margaret Ravnsborg, Irene Rosin, Marilyn Schultz, Anne Shelley, Sarah May Smith, Judith Soucy, Pat Stanice, Marie Thompson, Jessie Vieaux, Val Wagner, Elizabeth (Betty) Bonnett, Helen Churchill, Jean Crisona, Minnie Dalgaard, Sheila Debney, Hilda Hinkley, Yvonne Jones, Marjorie Kinley, Gladys Lindstrand, Vi Ogilvie Massing, Lucille McMechan, Harriot Monk and Isabel Odgaard.

Throughout the years, some of the Auxiliary members have received the highest award given by the Ladies Auxiliary, the Meritorious Service Award to those who have rendered outstanding meritorious service to the cause of the Royal Canadian Legion. Local recipients of this honour have included Vi Massing-Ogilvie, Marlene Ferguson and the late Jean Martin and Georgina Kocyba. Those Ponoka members who have proudly received their 50-year service pins are: Yvonne Jones, Lucille McMechan, Vi Massing-Ogilvie, Marion Parks and Babe Prediger; and there certainly will be more as they approach their 80th anniversary of keen and exemplary service to Legion and community!