Edna Stretch Cerveny (nee Kay)
September 13, 1909 to October 26, 2012
Edna Cerveny, the oldest life-long resident of the Ponoka area, died peacefully on October 26, 2012, aged 103. The extent of Edna’s tremendous impact on her family and her community far exceeded her diminutive size.
Born Mary Edna Kay, Edna was the eldest of seven children. She grew up on a farm west of Ponoka, with an interlude in Victoria while her father served in the First World War. She moved into town for high school, living with several other girls. Edna Kay was the first President of the Ponoka High School Student’s Union, and she would go on to complete a First Class Teaching Certificate.
Teaching in a one-room school at Glenfallock beginning in 1928, Edna came to value her independence, a characteristic that remained with her through life and one that she would later pass on to her sons and grandchildren. While she was always concerned about appearances, she was also quite fearless in her own way. As a young schoolteacher, Edna joined a group of 26 teachers (23 women, three men) for an adventurous summer road trip in 1937. The group drove across Canada and into the U.S. in a truck pulling a large converted horse trailer that served as their mobile dorm room.
Like many women who came of age in the Depression, Edna learned to be very careful with money and food – nothing could ever go to waste. When she set out for her first teaching job, she had only $5 in her pocket. As backup, she had a gold coin given to her by her uncle as congratulations for receiving top marks in school when she was 12. But Edna was frugal and never needed to use the coin. Today one of her grand-daughters wears that same coin mounted on a chain around her neck.
Edna met Gordon Stretch at a country dance, and they married in 1938. They settled in Bentley, where Edna taught at the Bentley School. Son Gordon Jr. was born in 1940. Wartime impacted Edna for a second time, as her four brothers enlisted, and Gordon and Edna had to return to Ponoka to take over the family farm (Edna’s brother Robert Kay was killed in Italy in 1944). Edna’s son Brian was born in 1943, followed by Robert in 1949.
The years on the farm were difficult for Edna. When asked about that period of her life, she would shudder and say simply, “Oh, all that dirt!” Money was always tight, and Edna went back to teaching when her boys were still quite young, in an era when a working mother was still quite rare. While the extra income was welcome, Edna also enjoyed the freedom of having her own career. Years later, when her sons had children of their own, she would celebrate educational and career milestones more than any other. Her four grand-daughters, in particular, she urged to “always have something to fall back on,” rather than relying on husbands to provide financial support. It’s hardly surprising that her grand-daughters have all grown up to be notably independent women themselves.
Gordon Stretch Sr. was killed in a car accident in 1966, and Edna lived on her own and continued teaching for the next several years. In 1972, she married former Ponoka Town Councillor August Cerveny, who was a widower. August and Edna enjoyed four happy years today, travelling to Alaska, Florida, Bahamas, Mexico and Hawaii. August died in 1976, and Edna then continued to live in her own house and drive her car until just months before her 100th birthday.
Having outlived two husbands, Edna enjoyed her long years of retirement in her hometown. She was blessed with excellent physical and mental health, and she remained active in the Sunshine Singers, the Legion Auxiliary, the United Church Women, the Ponoka General Hospital Auxiliary and the Ponoka and District Historical Society. She was a hands-on grandmother to her seven grandchildren, and a major influence in their lives. She continued to travel, attending the World’s Fair in Japan with her friend Susan Wessel and Expo ’86 in Vancouver with her sister Doris (where these two sweet old ladies would brazenly walk into the back doors of the pavilions, avoiding the long queues at the entrances – they claimed a belief that the back doors must be “seniors’ entrances”). The first of nine great-grandchildren arrived in 1999, and Edna’s basement with its store of bits and pieces from decades past became a source of wonder and discovery for young children again.
Edna always retained an encyclopedic memory not only of all the people in her own life, but also of their friends and families. She wanted to be part of every conversation, and to know everything that was going on. “What’s the news?” was the beginning of every phone call. While she would speak with a frankness that was sometimes alarming (and often unintentionally humorous), she was unfailingly supportive of her family. She welcomed every new turn, whether conventional or unconventional, in the lives of her children and grandchildren.
Edna suffered a bad fall just before her 100th birthday, breaking her hip and shoulder. While she recovered physically, her mental abilities and her memory were badly impacted through the weeks of hospitalization, and she lost her characteristic sharpness. For the last three years of Edna’s life, her mantra was to discuss what a wonderful family she had. Even when she could no longer keep the names straight, she would talk about how fortunate she was to have such excellent sons, for all of them to have married such lovely daughters-in-law, and for all of the grandchildren to have “turned out well.”
Edna spent her final three years at Northcott Care Centre, where she received compassionate and excellent care, for which her family are very grateful.
Edna is survived by her three sons and their wives, Gordon and Patricia Stretch, Brian and Jane Stretch, and Robert and Denese Stretch; by her grandchildren Laurie (David), Gordon (Tracy), Heather (Lamont), Blane (Jodi), Julia, Trena and Quin; by great-grandchildren Andrew and Thomas Finch, Jackson, Walker and Levi Leatherman, Corbin and Jaida Stretch, and Peter and Kristen Stretch; and by her brother Vernon. Her Funeral Service will be held at the Ponoka United Church at 2:00 p.m. on Wednesday, October 31, 2012 with the Interment Service following at Forest Home Cemetery. To express condolences to Edna’s family, please visit www.womboldfuneralhomes.com.
Arrangements Entrusted To Ponoka Funeral Home
~ A Wombold Family Funeral Home ~