An ongoing salute of our Ponoka and districts pioneer women and families

Dorothy (Pearse) Ungstad. Photo courtesy of the Fort Ostell Museum

By Mike Rainone for the News

One needs only to page through our history books or pay a visit to the Fort Ostell Museum for a delightful show and tell look back at the countless stories and artifacts of the long and colorful growth and ongoing progress of the Town and County of Ponoka dating all the way back to the late 1800s. So many great tales have been told of those most dedicated and determined pioneer families and individuals who over those early gruelling years would boldly face so many challenges and hardships on their way to building the friendly and thriving rural and urban communities that we proudly live in today, and will hopefully always strive to honour the amazing and colorful history that came before us.

Dorothy (Pearse) Ungstad

Your Reflections feature this week proudly pays tribute to Mrs. Dorothy (Pearce) Ungstad, who has been a very active and dedicated member of the Ponoka district since 1963 and was recognized at our 2004 Town of Ponoka Centennial celebrations for her many decades of sincere contributions and commitments to her community and family.

This congenial lady was born in Edmonton and has proudly spent most of her very busy life in Alberta. After marrying Roald Ungstad in 1955 the happy couple would move to the Ponoka district in 1963, settling in the Reo district northwest of town. Together they farmed for well over 40 years, during which time they also raised their family of daughters Eileen, Gail, and Joan, and sons Peter and Wayne, and can now proudly sit back and relax a little and share and enjoy the activities of a dozen or more grandchildren. The Ungstad family have always enjoyed taking part in countless activities in and around their community, including all sorts of sports, 4H, Air Cadets, and on and on. It was also during the time that the children were in school or off to University that Dorothy also found the time to obtain her Bachelor of Education Degree as well as other advanced education diplomas, which would all result in an outstanding full time teaching commitment at the Ponoka Elementary School.

The history of the Ungstad family in the Ponoka area began in March of 1926 when Peter and Mathilda Ungstad moved their family of seven, their stock, and all their worldly belongings to Ponoka, later settling in a home on a five quarter farm west of town that they had rented from Judge Jackson. Times were tough in those days, and got even rougher for the Ungstad family in 1927 when a tornado hit the area, ripped off the barn roof, blew the chickens and turkeys away, and caused a great deal of damage to the buildings and surroundings. But everyone survived, the family got on with the business of farming and living off the land, Peter worked for the municipality building roads and later went logging, the children got on with their schooling, and they purchased their first car in 1929. In 1930 Peter and Mathilda purchased the S.W. of 22-44-26-W4, which has remained in the family for many generations and where the welcome mat has always been out and the coffee pot on for thousands of visitors. The happy couple were blessed with twelve children, which included Synove, Thora, Waldmar, Valborg, Rolf, Roald, Margaret, Erland, and two sets of twins, Maalfreid and Magdalene, and Solveig and Peter.

Over the years Dorothy Ungtad’s countless contributions at the rural community level have always included a lot of keen, dedicated, and exciting involvement with lots of people, including youth sports groups and the Garden Club, where her unique horticultural expertise has always provided a great example for the young children. During her long-standing contributions to the annual Ponoka County Fair, whether it be as a judge, an organizer, a contestant, or most often all of the above she has always been there as part of the team that makes it all a huge community success, each and every summer. Dorothy’s other avid and very pleasurable involvement and support over the years have also included: 4H programs, many activities with the Ferrybank-Half Way Grove Womens Institute, and the Reo-Dennis Sewing Club, and wherever she lends a hand she has always willingly, capably, and very naturally volunteered to take on some leadership roles.

Mrs. Ungstad is also an outstanding homemaker, and along with her late husband Roald always extended a warm welcome to each and every visitor, whether they be young, old, married, single, distressed, or possibly just in need for something kind and special for the “lost soul.” All aspects of political involvement have always held a great deal of interest for Dorothy, while during her over 40 years of dedicated service to the area of education she has passionately served as a Co-ordinator for Special Education, Assistant Superintendent, Director of Student Services, and in other positions with the Alberta Teacher’s Association. It is impossible to even dare to suggest that Dorothy Ungstad has ever really retired as an educator or from her active life in education as she has presently been involved with the Student Initiative Board. Along the way she was also a member of the local FCSS board for 12 years, during which time Dorothy was an avid initiator for the School Wellness Liaison Worker, the Neighbourhood Place, Ponoka Youth Centre, and as a longstanding member of the Ponoka General Hospital and Care Centre Auxiliary and Ponoka and District Health Foundation.

Over the years Dorothy Ungstad has always been blessed with unique public relations skills, and along the way there have been countless children, students, parents, colleagues, friends, and neighbours that have developed a deep respect and admiration for her compassionate nature and her amazing ability to solve problems with dignity, grace, and kindness. There is absolutely no doubt that for so many decades Dorothy Ungstad has always given enormously and unselfishly of herself for the benefit of others in every aspect of her busy and very productive life that has included her marriage, her family, her career, her community, and far beyond. A living legacy of devoted loyal dedication to life has and always will be Dorothy’s way of life.

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