Reflections: Story of Ponoka’s past lady pioneers continues

Celebrating Betty Matejka’s legacy in Ponoka

Betty Matejka has happily lived in the Ponoka district for over 90 years and has dedicated her very active life to a career of teaching, raising a family of five with husband Bill, always helping out around the farm, as well as faithfully supporting, promoting, and assisting countless organizations throughout our town and county. Photo courtesy of the Fort Ostell Museum Betty Matejka has happily lived in the Ponoka district for over 90 years and has dedicated her very active life to a career of teaching, raising a family of five with husband Bill, always helping out around the farm, as well as faithfully supporting, promoting, and assisting countless organizations throughout our town and county. Photo courtesy of the Fort Ostell Museum

By Mike Rainone for the News

Walter Hoar, the second son of George and Luella Hoar was born at Wentworth, South Dakota in 1900, and emigrated with his parents by train in 1901, arriving in Ponoka, N.W.T. and settling on his father’s homestead located at the SE 14-27-43 W4 in the Fertile Forest district just west of the village.

They spent their first years in a ‘long’ log cabin containing three bedrooms and a big kitchen with his parents and brother Lyle, uncle Will, and a friend Sam Hill.

Always energetic and interested in animals, Walter attended the Dakota and Ponoka High Schools until his early teens, and then stayed home to attend to the business of farming. In those early years he became an expert at breaking horses, loved to hunt the bountiful district birds with his father’s shotgun, and enjoyed touring around in one of the first Ford Touring cars in the area. In 1923 Walter married district school teacher Christine E. Morrison on the family farm, then worked on the Wallace Stewart homestead for two years, after which they were able to purchase their own farm on the N.E. 2-43-27-W4, erecting their first home and barn with the help of Frank Cissell and Alf Jensen.

Along the way Walter and Christine welcomed their three children, Morris, Betty, and Audrey, and the family were always keen community workers and good friends to everyone. Walter was tragically killed in a tractor accident in 1936, after which Christine stayed on the farm and raised her family until it was sold in 1948. It would be later written in the Crestomere Sylvan Heights Heritage History Book that Walter Hoar was always a first class farmer, a splendid neighbour, and a worthy citizen, and that he and wife Christine contributed so much as our country’s ‘Second Pioneers.’

Betty (Hoar) Matejka

Betty Matejka, the daughter of Walter and Christine Hoar was born in Lacombe on June 1, 1928 and took her schooling from Grades 1-9 at the Fertile Forest School and then completed 10 to 12 at the P.H.S. in the Red Brick School. After school and during summer holidays she loved working at the Thirsk’s 5 cent to $1.00 Store on Chipman Avenue, and after graduation she would attend the University of Alberta in Edmonton, and stayed with her good friend Jean (Goodwin) Rose.

Betty’s enjoyable teaching career began in the grand old days of those small but great country schools about May 15, 1947 at the Ellice School with a class of 38 students from Grades 1 through 8. In September of 1948 she moved from Ellice to Fertile Forest, where she taught for one year before going over to the brand new Mecca Glen School, teaching there for two years. Betty Matejka’s friendly personality and industrious nature always endeared her to her countless students, colleagues, and parents, with merriment and laughter always being a part of the formation of so many lifelong friendships throughout our town and county districts. On Nov. 17, 1951 Betty married Bill Matejka, and over the ensuing years she always happily combined a busy schedule of substitute teaching with her household and farm duties while raising their five children Dawn, Anne, Lori, John, and Mark. As a child Betty attended and was confirmed at the Dakota United Church, a building which her father Walter helped to build and while attending High School she attended the Ponoka United Church. She has been an active member at that church ever since, and where she served as a 12 year leader of the Explorers, taught Sunday school, and is always available to work at the Thrift Shop or when support is needed for various activities.

Soon after her marriage Betty became an avid member of the Grand Meadow Unifarm, an active district organization which catered to numerous year-round functions throughout the Ponoka area. Together her and Bill became heavily involved in the maintenance and building of facilities at the Ponoka Cemetery, while the Grand Meadow group was also very instrumental in promoting the vital need for a local senior’s home, which finally culminated in the building of the Rimoka Lodge, as well as ongoing amenities. Betty Matejka could always be counted on to fill in when needed around the farm, with some of these vigorous duties including helping at lambing time, checking cows, raising chickens, doing chores, driving silage and grain trucks, and both her and Bill always being very supportive and loving grandparents.

In the 1960s, responding to a request from Blanche Hoybak, Betty became involved with the Ponoka Agricultural Society, with many dedicated years of emphasis on the annual popular county fair, in which she faithfully served as the convener of the junior competitions as well as the President of the very active 100 plus year old organization. In 1991 Betty and Bill Matejka decided to become part of a group whose aim was to restore the historical Fertile Forest School. Working together with these dedicated community members over the years has been a rewarding experience for Bill and Betty, who also served as the group’s ongoing secretary. Along the way the Ponoka Home and School and the Seafield Social Workers have also benefited from Betty’s membership.

Over the years the Matejka family have all belonged to the very active 4-H movement in the Ponoka districts, with Betty supporting her children as members and her husband Bill as a group leader for many years. A fine tradition of producing and showing classic and top quality purebred Hereford stock was introduced by Albert Matejka into the Ponoka area in the early 1900s and has been proudly carried on to this day by Matejka Farms, who have celebrated countless livestock sales, reunions, and family milestones for more than 100 years. As a long-standing Ponoka Pioneer Betty Matejka, the fine principals and high standards that she has always demanded of herself have resulted in her becoming a highly valued and loved individual and dedicated wife, mother, teacher, friend, neighbour, and volunteer. We are indeed blessed to have such a great lady of this calibre in our community.

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