Reflections: Saluting Ponoka’s lady pioneers

This week’s Reflections salute goes to Barbara (Smith) Uhl

Barbara (Smith) Uhl Photo courtesy of the Fort Ostell Museum

By Mike Rainone for the News

Paul Smith was born on Oct. 5, 1903 in Pennsylvania and would embark on the long gruelling trek to Alberta with his parents in 1911 and eventually settled in the Ferrybank district west of Ponoka.

The ambitious young lad had to start work on the new family farm at a very early age, taking a man’s place when most boys were still in school. In 1928 Paul married Sylvan Side school teacher Ramona McLaren, and together they bravely faced the dreaded depression and drought of the 1930s and a tornado in 1951, but they prevailed and over the years welcomed and raised their family or four; Barbara, Robert, Susan, and Norman. In 1964 Paul and Ramona Uhl would move into town, leaving the more strenuous life on the farm to the younger hands of their family.

Barbara (Smith) Uhl

The daughter of Paul and Romona Smith was born at their Ferrybank homestead on Aug. 31, 1929 and after assisting her parents on the farm and completing her schooling, Barbara Smith would achieve her teaching degree, married Albert Uhl on Aug. 8, 1955 and raised their family of four on their busy beef and dairy farm. Over the years the family would become very involved in the church, the Women’s Institute, the Beef Calf Club, and their community. While Barbara was always busy with her teaching and on the farm, she also loved to make countless contributions to all sorts of projects and organizations, a sincere dedication and effort that would carry on for many decades. In 2004 at the Ponoka Centennial Celebration Barbara (Smith) Uhl was honoured as one of our longstanding Pioneer Women from over the first 100 years.

Barbara Smith’s first eight years of school were spent at Ferrybank, with the ninth at Hazel Hill and her high school studies in Ponoka. After supervising at the Reo Country School for one year she attended the University of Alberta and completed her studies to become a teacher. Her first two years of teaching were at the Elkhorn School where she taught 30 students from Grades 1 through 9, and then the following year Barbara was asked to teach at Mecca Glen, where she served many times over the years. Her students always benefitted from her enthusiastic and capable teaching and it was there where she met fellow teacher Albert Uhl, whom she later married. After four years Mr. and Mrs. Uhl would purchase the George Winfield farm, and it was here that they happily raised their four children Ken, Rick, Janice, and Kevin. Barb immediately took a very keen interest and always enjoyed the many challenges of farming, which included tending to the cattle and the milking, as well as raising exotic birds. Over the years the busy and delightful Uhl family farm was chosen as a popular destination for many school field trips.

In her early years Barb Uhl demonstrated her natural inclination for caring for others, assuming a very special and important role when she became a Big Sister for Patsy. Since then, Barb’s life as an active teacher and homemaker has been characterized by her constant willingness to help others wherever and whenever needed. Along with her heavy daily load as a teacher she always found some time to share her many talents by offering adult evening art classes, also extending these gifts to the students and teachers of the Arts and Crafts class at Mecca Glen School, as well as travelling countless miles to purchase the proper supplies. Another one of Barbara Uhl’s many activities was singing and playing with the joint Asker-Zion Choir, and whenever a need was expressed for props and whatever for concerts, she would magically produce the required items and added so much enthusiasm for the projects. The Wood River Festival and the Mecca Glen School will always owe a debt of gratitude to Barb for her countless volunteer hours of miles driven and preparation of the contestants annually competing in piano, vocal solos, duets, and choir, where her accompaniment was always invaluable.

Another facet in this fine lady’s array of talents is her keen ability as a seamstress and many other types of artistic handiwork. Barbara Uhl is a long time member of the Concord Ladies group, an active organization which supports the annual AHP picnic as well as other charities. For a number of years she was a member of the Ponoka Agricultural Society, and would always look forward to serving as the convenor of the senior and handicapped section of the popular Ponoka County Fair. Throughout her very active life Barbara Uhl’s voluntary and caring efforts may have slowed down just a little, but have never ceased, including a delightful 12 years as the accompanist and president of the popular Ponoka Sunshine Singers, delivering Meals on Wheels, playing for church services in the local seniors homes and hospitals, and always so willing to extend a helping hand, a visit, or a ride to her many friends and neighbours.

Barbara Uhl will always fondly remember and cherish all the many years that she spent teaching private piano lessons, as well as the countless class friendships that were enjoyed with both students and parents. In this tribute a salute should also be made of Barb’s unfailing generosity of time, love, and support as a very proud grandma, truly a lifetime blessing that will be forever treasured in the hearts of her grandchildren. In so many avenues of life Barbara Uhl has proven herself indispensable to her family, friends, colleagues, and community, all of whom are deeply grateful.

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