Reflections: Recognizing Ponoka’s pioneer ladies

Continuation of Reflections’ looking back at Ponoka’s lady pioneers

Vi Massing Ogilvie Photos courtesy of the Fort Ostell Museum

By Mike Rainone for the News

In our ongoing salute to the dedicated efforts of those hardy pioneer ladies and their families from our Ponoka town and county, this week the Ponoka News will pay tribute to two vibrant women who spent many active and productive years in the farming districts of Sylvan Heights and Crestomere.

Vi Massing/Ogilvie and Ada Ashton were both among the many pioneer ladies who were honoured during the Ponoka centennial celebrations in 2004 for their outstanding dedication and contributions to our town and county over those first 100 years.

Viola Kinley (Massing/Ogilvie)

It was back in the beginning of the Second World War that Hermad Massing purchased a quarter of brush land on the SE quarter of 19-42-27, but following his untimely death the mortgage was taken over by his brother Ed Massing in 1941. When Ed joined the navy he left the care of his land to Evan Thomas and John Beach, but upon returning to the land in 1945 he took over the work and also purchased the adjoining quarter.

In 1945 Ed Massing would marry Viola Kinley of the Crestomere area and then in the same year they would move into the Elkhorn district and welcomed their first son Duane. The couple remained in the district for 20 busy but very happy years, during which time their children Ron, Myrna, Pat, and Connie were born and they would all become active members of the local Community Club. It was in 1965 when after 13 years of both carpentering and farming that Ed and Vi and their growing family moved into Ponoka, where Ed continued to build his business and Vi was employed as a clerk at the Northcott Nursing Home. Along the way the Massing children continued to be involved in their community, with Pat and Myrna in 4-H and Ron in Scouting, and then after completing their schooling in Ponoka would pursue further education opportunities, begin their careers, marry, and raise their families. Following Ed’s passing Vi later married Alex Ogilvie, who had been a class-mate while attending the popular Ponoka High School.

Vi Massing joined the Ladies Auxiliary of the Royal Canadian Legion in 1955, and while always faithfully attending meetings over the years her fellow members always knew that if Vi wasn’t on hand there must have been a serious problem. Throughout her long-standing and dedicated service to the Legion cause she would hold many positions on the executive. These included being the secretary for three years, the president from 1967-1968, and the Chaplin for more than 10 years, as well as serving on the Sick and Visiting Committee, convening the vital Meals-On-Wheels community program, and canvassing for the Arthritic Campaign. Mrs. Massing was also the head of the busy Social Committee at the Legion Branch #66 for three years, and always enjoyed convening the countless banquets hosted annually by the Ladies Auxiliary, arranging the lunches and bingo prizes as well as assisting with funeral lunches. Although eventually having to step away from her many volunteer duties, this longstanding and devoted lady still endeavours to attend the annual Remembrance Day and July 1st parades, tries to help out at the Legion whenever she can, and really enjoys getting together with family, grandchildren, and friends.

Ada (Nesbitt) Ashton

Ada (Nesbitt) Ashton fondly remembers moving into the Sylvan Heights district, where she married Gordon Robert Ashton in 1957. Happily they farmed together, welcomed their children Michelle and Gerald, and were active and dedicated grandparents and members of the community for over 40 years. Gordon Ashton received all of his education at the Half-Way Grove School, and after spending several years working with oil companies he later added the occupation of farming to his work at the B.A. Plant near Rimbey. He was also an avid hockey player and fan for the district teams and over the years loved being a dedicated supporter and friend in all aspects of his community until his passing in 1997.

Education was always a very important part of Ada Ashton’s life. She trained as an X-ray and laboratory technician and was employed in the hospitals at Rimbey, Provost, and the University Hospital in Edmonton. A graduate of the University of Alberta in Education, Mrs. Ashton also enjoyed a long teaching career that included Sylvan Heights, Crestomere, the Ponoka Composite High School, and Red Deer College. She also dedicated her time as an active member of the RDC Business Education Council and the Business Education Curriculum Committee.

Living in a rural community also presented Ada with many unique and enjoyable opportunities to take part in countless volunteer activities. She was an active member of the Halfway Grove Women’s Institute for 36 years, which included serving in several executive positions at both the local, Constituency, and district levels. Mrs. Ashton was also a member of the Home and School, and really enjoyed assisting with the preparation of the delightful Crestomere and Sylvan Heights Heritage History Book. This very dedicated lady also served as the President of the Ponoka Further Education Council, the Chairman of the building committee when the new Ponoka Co-op Shopping Centre was built in the 1970s, and would later accept the Lieutenant-Governor appointment on the Parkland Regional Library Board and Chairman of the building committee when the new Parkland Library was built.

Along the way Ada Ashton also proudly served as the first woman councillor for the County of Ponoka, as well as the chairman and on the negotiating committees of both the Board of Education and the Wetoka Health Unit. In her senior years Ada Ashton has always enjoyed precious time with her family, a little farming, being a part of the Ponoka Senior Bell Ringers, and is the proud owner of a Peterbuilt.

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