Nettie (Smith) Winslow. Photo courtesy of the Fort Ostell Museum

REFLECTIONS: Saluting the pioneer women and families of Ponoka town and county

By Mike Rainone for the News

The ongoing growth and great progress and successes of our town and county of Ponoka would have its very humble but exciting beginnings in the late 1800s when hundreds of settler families and individuals moved into this vast and fertile area in search of new homes and opportunities on the western prairies of the new nation of Canada. Over the decades after Ponoka became a town in 1904 there would be countless challenges for the growing populations of both our urban and rural areas. This would include the onslaught of the dirty 30s and the vigorous day to day hardships of building their new homes, farms, businesses, schools, and churches, while clearing the land to grow vital crops, and having to face a very unpredictable climate and ever- changing conditions.

But over those rugged but colourful decades through the 19th century and beyond our hardy generations have prevailed by working and playing hard together with a spirited determination, while facing all the challenges but striving to achieve their goals and steadily building the legacy and livelihoods that we enjoy so much today. Along the way we celebrated with great joy in 1954 and then again in 2004 as generations of families, individuals, and friends came together to mark the 50th and 100th anniversaries of the thriving Town of Ponoka and surrounding county districts. During those gala celebrations so many of our hardy pioneers, businesses, organizations, and milestone events have been honoured for their ongoing contributions and dedication to their community and districts, and Reflections in your Ponoka News is always pleased to tell their great stories.

Nettie (Smith) Winslow

Nettie Roberta Smith was born on March 9, 1949, the first child of R.T. (Bob) and Bertha (Sweet) Smith, who were united in marriage on December 24, 1947 and would set up their first humble home in a two roomed house on the Krefting farm. When Nettie was two years old the family moved to the Lloyd farm on the S.E. 1-10-42-25-W4 in the Scott district south-east of the Town of Ponoka.

That grand moving day will always be very vividly remembered by the Smith family as the snow banks were so deep that the trucks couldn’t get closer than a half mile from the farm buildings, so the animals, cows, calves, and pigs all had to be unloaded and chased through the drifts in the dark to shelter. With the kind help of several neighbours the furniture and all the rest of the family belongings were hauled on sleighs the rest of the way to where their new home was set up and where the family would spend many enjoyable and busy years growing and progressing together. Over the years R.T. and Bertha would be blessed with a happy house full of children, welcoming Douglas David in 1952, Robert Evans in 1954, and then on the memorable summer day of June 18, 1958 when the twins Delores May and Doreen Fae arrived on the scene. During those early years the Smith family worked hard to build up a quality herd of purebred Hereford cattle and all became very avidly involved in the district 4-H Clubs as active members and leaders, as well as showing their cattle at fairs and countless events. A highlight of the ongoing dedication and success with their herds came in 1961 and 1962 when Bob took steers to the coveted Toronto Royal Winter Fair and would be awarded with the honour of showing the Reserve Grand Champion Hereford in 1961.

As well as completing their education in the local school system, Nettie, Douglas, Robert, Delores, and Doreen also proudly carried on the family tradition as members of the Central 4-H Beef Club, South Ponoka 4-H Garden Club, Modern Misses and Morningside Menders Sewing Clubs, as well as taking on leadership roles and being active in their community.

On Aug. 23, 1968 Nettie Smith was married to Raymond Winslow of the Ferrybank district. Together the happy couple would diligently work on their farm in the Dakota district for over four decades. Along the way Raymond and Nettie would welcome their three children and together they would always look forward to taking part in and helping out at countless activities and events with their family and friends. Over the years Mrs. Winslow, who was nominated by her peers in 2004 to receive a much deserved Women of the Year Ponoka Centennial Award, would always love working and sharing with people of all ages. Nettie and Raymond and their family have always avidly supported the active and very important Ponoka and District 4-H movement and for many years, where she served as a member, as a leader and assistant leader, district councillor, and public speaking judge. While the family always donated many trophies and awards for countless 4-H, school, and other community events, Nettie also really enjoyed transporting the young members and school students to and from their various activities around the town and county.

As well as serving for over 35 years with the Dakota UCW in several executive positions and helping with most of their exciting district projects Nettie also sat on the Economic Development Board in Ponoka for four years as a friendly and persuasive liaison between the farmers and the town folks, while helping to organize many of the vital Focus on Agriculture Conferences. Her other always energetic and dedicated volunteer and family activities over the years have included being a member of the Crestomere Home and School and The West County Women, as well as assisting with the Dakota School Reunion. Nettie also very willingly found the time to be a congenial visitor to Northcott and the hospital, as well as spending countless hours helping her parents Bob and Bertha Smith. One of Nettie Winslow’s most passionate and important projects over the years will always be her continued work and ongoing promotion of the popular Ponoka Farmers Market. She would faithfully serve as president for 23 years and as the market co-manager with Donna Merrill for 16 years, and always looks forward to dropping in on Wednesdays or at special occasion events.

Over the years this special lady, who has spent all of her life in the Ponoka district, has always enjoyed decorating cakes, doing various crafts, baking, travelling, dancing, Weight Watchers, and socializing with others. While her volunteering activities may have slowed down just a little, her coffee pot is always on, and she is always ready and willing to do some phoning or lending a helping hand for some projects and will always love spending quality time with family and friends and spoiling the grandchildren.

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