Nena (Ross) Eastes/Reed spent 73 years of her very active life in Ponoka, thoroughly enjoying each and every day serving as a teacher, community volunteer, lover of the arts and music, as well as a faithful and loving wife and mother to husband Arthur and three daughters, a grandmother of seven, and always a loyal friend and mentor to so many folks, young and old. Her colourful life history was recorded in Alberta’s millennium celebration book A Century of Living, which honours Alberta’s pioneers. Photo courtesy of the Fort Ostell Museum

Reflections: Continuing the celebration of Ponoka’s pioneer ladies

This week we salute Nena (Ross) Eastes/Reed who spent 73 years of her life in Ponoka

By Mike Rainone for the News

Nena (Ross) Eastes/Reed was born in 1900 at Ladysmith, Quebec, the youngest of nine children, and for over 10 decades would enjoy a very active lifestyle that combined family, career, and community in both Lacombe and Edmonton before settling in Ponoka, Alberta.

The whole family moved west in 1901, settling in Lacombe in 1901, but after her father died she and her mother moved to Edmonton, where Nena completed her education, graduated from the Strathcona High School, and later received her teacher’s degree.

She taught in the rural schools of Stettler and Lacombe, where she met and later married banker Arthur Eastes, who had been born in England and served as an officer with the Royal Flying Corps in the First World War. Their first home was in Jenner, where they made and enjoyed many friends, and then it was off to Ponoka, where they took up residence on Sept. 26, 1928. Arthur opened a general insurance business in the Empress Theatre building along Railway Street, and after adding a conveyancing and notary service with new partner Luther Jones in the Andy Lundgrin building, and then later Arthur would carry on his own lucrative and life-long career in a small office at the Elk’s Hall on Chipman Avenue. Over those busy years his wife Nena, when she wasn’t teaching, would faithfully assist him in the office, which would later become Ponoka’s first travel agency, as well as issuing the license plates for the overwhelming invasion of the motor-mania into the district. It was during the devastating 1930s Depression years that they had to accept a load of wood from customers in lieu of cash and services, but like so many others, they managed to survive by pulling together.

Arthur, whose favourite hobby was hunting and fishing with his cronies, also served as the official Auditor for the Fertile Valley M.D. and the Town of Ponoka, and was the secretary-treasurer and did books for the rural S.D. No. 423, and was a life member of the Ponoka Masonic Lodge and Legion. Both Arthur and Nena, who along the way welcomed their three daughters Geraldine, Janet, and Helen, were longstanding and very active members of the Ponoka United Church.

Nena Eastes (Reed) was a woman of destiny

Nena Eastes was always a very kind and generous woman, who although with meagre means in those early days, she always looked forward to hosting annual Eastes’ Christmas celebration and would also include doing some extra baking and delivering goodies to other families in and around the community. She passionately loved to share what she had with the less fortunate and always managed to find the time to volunteer and organize the local Blood Donor Clinics, from which she received a Badge of Service Award for 25 years of service in 1974 as well as setting a record as a blood donor. Over the years Nena was also an avid member the Battle River Order of the Eastern Star, Fort Ostell I.O.D.E., and the Ponoka Presbyterian W.M.S. and Mission Band.

After their family grew and as the powerful love for her children and community continued Nena would return to teaching for several years in both the Ponoka public and separate school systems. At the United Church this great lady spent countless dedicated years as a leader of the non-denominational Canadian Girls in Training group, always showing warmth and concern for the generations of young ladies that she tutored and inspired. The very popular and kindly Mrs. Eastes always loved to get involved in both the fun-filled and more serious activities of these rambunctious C.G.I.T. girls. Nena also enjoyed teaching Sunday school for 58 years, during which time she received a Life Membership in the Women’s Christian Temperance and other ladies’ groups. She was extremely thrilled to have a Ponoka UCW group forever named in her honour, and for many years she continued to faithfully direct the United Church camps at Gull and Sylvan Lakes.

Over all those years Nena Eastes (Reed) also enjoyed the social side of her active life, loved to paint and was a long time member of the Ponoka Art Club, was a strong promoter of the Arts and enjoyed music and singing at every opportunity. She also kept very active by walking and exercising daily, and in her younger year she won countless awards at swim meets. Each and every summer she took her children and her friends, and later their seven grandchildren to their delightful Gull Lake cabin for lots of fun times, and became a wonderful role model for all of her ‘family and community kids.’ Nena and Arthur always reminisced about their memorable 44 years together in and around Ponoka with family and friends, and when Arthur passed away she would later marry Mr. Clint Reed, who predeceased her in 1994. She spent her last years at the Northcott Care Centre and quietly passed away on March 5, 2001 after living and totally enjoying an active life of over 100 years, all of which she based on a firm foundation of: a positive attitude, concern, love, and spirituality, as a humble woman of destiny.

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