Reflections of Ponoka – Life gets even better the second time around

One might say that long time Ponoka Composite High School teacher, musician, and keen local resident Harold Dootson got a second chance at life; and there is absolutely no doubt that the congenial 71 year old is enjoying every moment of it.

In these photos Harold Dootson of Ponoka proudly displays some of the finished products of his unique hobby; which along with bow shooting

In these photos Harold Dootson of Ponoka proudly displays some of the finished products of his unique hobby; which along with bow shooting

One might say that long time Ponoka Composite High School teacher, musician, and keen local resident Harold Dootson got a second chance at life; and there is absolutely no doubt that the congenial 71 year old is enjoying every moment of it.

Born and raised on a farm near Irma, Alberta, Dootson embarked on a busy and colourful lifestyle from a very early age. After completing high school he worked on an oilrig and as a trucker in the Edmonton area; and then attended university and worked at a gold mine in Yellowknife, Northwest Territory during the summer breaks.

After university, Harold worked briefly for an insurance company, headed east to begin his teaching career at a Toronto High School, and avidly pursued his passion for music by joining a folk singing group. While singing and playing with this talented crew for four years he was fortunate to jam with the likes of future musical legends such as Ian Tyson, Gordon Lightfoot, ‘Rompin’ Ronnie Hawkins, Zal Yanofsky of the Lovin’ Spoonful, Denny Doherty from the Mamas and Papas, and many others. Along the way Dootson also wrote several rowdy songs for a 1967 Centennial publication published by B.M.I. of Canada.

One of his musical partners in those roaring ‘60s was Amos Garrett, who would later go on to play guitar behind such greats as Maria Muldour, Ian Tyson, Stevie Wonder, and Anne Murray at recording sessions and concerts.

“We still stay in touch, as Alberta is now the multi-talented Garret’s home base while he still performs around the world,” Harold explained. “In fact I spoke to him just last week, and it is very exciting to be able to stay in touch by e-mail with some of those artists that I sang and played with 45 years ago!”

Harold fondly reminisced that folk music was largely replaced by folk rock about that time after Bob Dylan went electric, and that is when the young teacher/musician decided to come home to Alberta. He continued his teaching career in Bashaw for two years, and then moved to Ponoka in 1968, where he began a colourful stint of teaching drama and English at the Ponoka Composite High School for 32 very special years.

“I still remember the students, who were all great young people, and it was a real pleasure working with that wonderful staff,” he fondly recalled. Together they spent a lot of great time in the classroom, and produced over 20 drama productions that were always very popular with the school and the community.

Dootson and his former wife Barb raised two sons, Dylan and Kevin, now 39 and 45; as well as both being very active in the community. Harold was a member and former president of the Ponoka Lions’ Club, enjoyed volunteering, and still found time to play in three local country music bands with quality musicians like Reg Rust, Frank Lauinger, Joe Staldecker, Lou Ludwig and on and on.

On Jan. 16, 2000 Harold Dootson’s very busy life took a sudden drastic turn after suffering a stroke. Luckily he had been consulting with a doctor at the University of Alberta regarding some early warning signs when his stroke occurred, and within a half an hour an M.R.I. had been completed and blood thinners were administered. The stroke affected his entire right side, and was the result of a blockage of a small vessel on the left side of his head. His speech and memory were impaired and he initially could not even squeeze two pounds with his right hand.

Harold’s extreme determination would become a major factor in his spectacular recovery. He attributes his rapid improvement to the five months of intense treatment and therapy, as well as the excellent professional care and encouragement provided by the staff at the Centennial Centre for Mental Health and Halvor Jonson Brain Injury facility. One of his wishes was to get back to the sport of archery that he had enjoyed for so many years, so in his early treatment he started squeezing a light child’s bow, and within three months was able to pull his own 55-pound bow. Between April and August 2000 Harold was released from the hospital to attend five major bow shoots, which slowly furthered his recovery and accuracy.

In his own words, “If I didn’t have this sport of archery I question if I would have come along as fast as I did. Good friends and helpful support, as well as focus is beneficial…. and time is always your friend.”

After retiring from his memorable 32-year teaching career in 2004, Harold continued to keep very active with his hobbies and his community. His current weekly workout includes water aerobics for 40 minutes four times a week, as well as walking 30 minutes a day. While a slight limp is noticeable he always looks forward to and strives for much more improvement each and every new day.

As well as archery, Harold’s other unique hobby includes the fashioning of magnificent stainless steel and Damascus knife blades, which are delicately etched with intricate patterns on the blades as well as the wooden handles. To complete each individual knife kit Harold also produces an engraved leather sheath. His good friends Adrian Trudeau and Kevin Henkelman have kindly assisted him along the way. Dootson enjoys donating his craftsmanship for prizes at various fundraisers or special causes, and recently one of his knives realized almost $1,300 at a Ponoka Fish and Game banquet. Of course he still enjoys his music, visiting with and meeting old friends at coffee and during summer archery meets; as well as volunteering to help others as much as possible.

During our casual interview, I quickly found that Harold Dootson is blessed with a very up-beat day-to-day outlook on life; stressing that life is sweet, that he is so happy to be here, and that we should always strive to be good to each other. In wishing him good luck in the future we must all admire his strong determination to succeed no matter what the odds, as well as his ongoing contributions to the community that he is so proud to call home.

Be Among The First To Know

Sign up for a free account today, and receive top headlines in your inbox Monday to Saturday.

Sign Up with google Sign Up with facebook

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Reset your password

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

A link has been emailed to you - check your inbox.



Don't have an account? Click here to sign up