Ongoing salute to Ponoka and district pioneer women and their families

A local pioneer, Rhoda Vold, is this week’s feature

Rhoda (Willcox) Vold shown here celebrating her 90th birthday last year. Ponoka News file

By Mike Rainone

for the News

The Vold and Willcox families were among the first pioneers to settle in the Asker and Manfred districts east of Ponoka.

Throughout those early colorful and challenging years that would mold the history of our town and districts, the very active paths of progress and friendship of these families and so many others would cross and intermingle in so many exciting and progressive ways.

In the fall of 1895, Andrew and Thea Vold would pack up all their family effects into a box car and then left their home and second hand store in Seattle, Wash. to make the long and arduous trip to Wetaskiwin, N.W.T.

After later searching the lush and rugged area to the southeast on horseback, they would file and later settle on their first homestead at the N.E. 2-43-23-W4.

It was in the spring of 1901, that Franklin James and Winnifred Willcox and their family of three travelled across the prairies from Kemble, Ont. by covered wagon — finally arriving in Wetaskiwin with all their worldly belongings and a few head of stock.

A few days later, they packed up their wagon once again and made a much shorter trip southeast, where they settled on their chosen homestead at the N.E. 10-42-22 in the Manfred district, where Franklin would operate the post office from 1904 to 1917.

Over the decades, the generations of the Vold and Willcox families would join many others in those thriving new districts. Together, they would carry on the long-standing traditions of farming, ranching and business ventures throughout the area and beyond.

Along the way, their friendly social activities would include family picnics and dances, sports and countless year round activities as well as the popular sports such as baseball, soccer, basketball, hockey, curling and rodeo.

Their ongoing dedication, care and support for their districts always kept them working close together in the promotion, support and construction of homes, barns, schools, churches and many other facilities as well as being front and centre when it came to reaching out to assist and honour their friends and neighbours — no matter what the cause or situation may be.

Rhoda (Willcox) Vold

Rhoda (Willcox), the daughter of Phillip and Eva Willcox was born on June 15, 1928 at the family homestead in the Manfred district east of Ponoka. She was the happy little girl with long ringlets, who learned to read before she went to school and loved growing up on the farm with her parents and brother Franklin.

As Rhoda pursued her education at the tiny Manfred School — 19 miles east and four south of Ponoka — she would win many accolades with her music, became an excellent ball player and graduated from Bashaw High School in 1946.

One of the very important highlights in her busy young life was her keen participation in the C.G.I.T. along with the great fun of camping with family and friends.

When Rhoda supervised at the Schultz School from 1946 to 1947, she would faithfully ride her horse nine miles every day, no matter what the weather. Then in 1947-48, she enrolled at the University of Alberta to pursue her teacher training.

She was excited about her first teaching job at the Reo School in 1948. Then her next venture was to accept a teaching job on the initial staff of the new Mecca Glen School from 1949 to 1951.

Rhoda fondly remembers that the teacherage always bulged at the seams with merriment and laughter as fun was had by all. This congenial lady would always be blessed with her great skills and love for music, assisting with one of the first school Music Festival held at the Asker Hall in 1951.

She diligently combined her teaching with preparing the students with their solos, duets and choirs who always looked forward to taking part in the longstanding and popular Wood River Festivals. Much of that extra music tutoring was done at noon-hour and after school, but the students and their parents would always appreciate Rhoda’s willing help and know-how. Together over the years, the teacher and her students would win many trophies, compliments and cheers for their efforts as well as sharing the unforgettable memories.

The next major milestone in Rhoda’s life came in 1951 when she married Everett Vold. Over the years, they would live on the family farm in the Asker district on the S.W. of 13-43-23-W4 and welcomed their children Betty, Beverley, Barbara, and Phillip.

As well as being actively involved in the district with her husband and family, Rhoda continued to enjoy her teaching career — serving in Ponoka from 1955-56 — and then later returning to Mecca Glen in 1968, where the popular country school was the clear winner to have such a kind, understanding and excellent mentor on their staff until 1993.

Rhoda’s family were also very proud of their mother, while she was also toasted by her many friends and students when after countless hours of travel and study she would graduate with her Bachelor Degree of Education in 1984. No matter how busy her life may have been, she has always strived to spend precious time with family, grandchildren, friends and neighbours.

Rhoda would also serve as an active member of the Asker Ladies’ Aid for 52 years as well faithfully attending the Asker Church, where she taught and played for Sunday school.

She would always be a keen supporter and big fan of her husband Everett and his brother William, as they avidly carried on the Vold family tradition of riding bucking broncos and other exciting rodeo stunts — winning countless trophies and awards in Canada and the U.S.

During the celebration of the Ponoka Centennial in 2004, Rhoda was honoured with a Pioneer Women Award in recognition and appreciation of her longstanding efforts and dedication to her community. Throughout her very active life Rhoda has always happily embraced her loving family members and countless friends, who have all very proudly held her in high esteem.

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