Past-Honourees


2013

Signe Spokkeli Hills

Signe Spokkeli Hills


Signe Spokkeli Hills was born January 20, 1886 on a farm near Moorhead, Minnesota; the only child of Norwegian settlers, John and Juri Spokkeli. The family moved to the Camrose area in 1895 when Signe was 9 years old and settled onto a homestead. As a child Signe fondly remembers the wild fruit that grew abundantly on the prairie and her positive pioneer neighbors, full of optimism and plans.

Before a school was built in the area Signe and neighboring children attended lessons held by Mr. Taylor in his home. Later Signe attended the Stoney Creek schoolhouse, built about 5 miles south of what would later become downtown Camrose. As more people settled the area this school was replaced by a larger building and renamed New Salem School. During the years of 1902 and 1903 Signe boarded in Edmonton to attend high school. To get to her boarding residence, Signe travelled to Wetaskiwin by horse, to South Edmonton by train and from there she would have to cross the North Saskatchewan River by ferry. After completing high school, she went to Regina to attend the Normal School, earning her interim teachers certificate in 3 months.

At age nineteen, Signe’s first teaching assignment was just north of Camrose at Lake Demay. She also taught at New Salem School and the Sifton rural school.

In 1905 Signe was hired to teach at the first school in Camrose, held in a small wooden building on Main Street; she had 19 students. Signe’s teaching career unfortunately came to an end in 1907 when she married Irving Hills. Apparently at the time married woman could not hold a teaching position.

Irving Hills was also an acclaimed pioneer of the Camrose community. He owned of the first drug store in Camrose, operating it until his death in 1951. Together he and Signe had 2 children, Myrtle and John.

When Signe moved to this area in 1895, the land where Camrose would develop was owned by Ole Brakken. It was wide open prairie with a few scattered homesteads and plenty of wild fruit. Signe died in August 1988 at the age of 102 years, a Camrose resident for those many years. She is remembered and honored by the 1912 Founders Days Committee as the first Camrose School teacher, but is also one of our longest living pioneers.

Almer Julian Jorgensen Ofrim

Almer Julian Jorgensen Ofrim


Almer Julian Jorgensen Ofrim was born in Loken, Norway and moved to Camrose in 1906 where he immediately joined a work crew building the Langbell Hotel (later called the Heather Brae Hotel) for Jacob Langbell. He also worked in Michael Haugen’s Blacksmith shop and created for himself a reputation as a well-known and distinguished blacksmith.

In 1911 Mr. Ofrim entered into partnership with Thomas Fowler, opening a blacksmith shop opposite of the town hall. In 1918 he left blacksmithing and opened a hardware store with Adolph Maland, a partnership and business that would be part of the Camrose business community for over 40 years. Almer sold the business and retired after the death of his partner, Mr. Maland in 1959.

The second location of their hardware building was on the corner of 50th and 50th and it became a favorite gathering spot with an old pot bellied stove in the centre of the store. When sleighs were used for winter travel rural folk commonly stopped to warm up before heading home.

Almer married Amelia Knutsvig on New Year’s Eve, 1919 and they had four children, Robert, Marie, Dennis and Alice. He was an ardent skier. In 1917 he is credited with locating the first ski slide near Banff. The next year he broke his leg on that same ski jump during a long distance jump. He did continue to ski but wasn’t able to jump as he once had.

During his life Mr. Ofrim presented contradictory qualities. It was reported that when a blacksmith, there was not a more rugged individual, yet in later life he was known as a gentle, kindly man.

Almer was active in Messiah Lutheran Church, the Board of Trade and was a life member of the Chamber of Commerce. He took an active part in the local ski club and was a hunting enthusiast.

He passed away in 1964 and is buried at the Camrose Valleyview Cemetery.


2011

 

Mr. M.A. Maxwell


Mr. M.A. Maxwell worked for the Town of Camrose as Engineer in 1911.  His role in the successful development of both the Electric Plant and Waterworks installation allowed Camrose to emerge as a flourishing municipality, commanding respect from community leaders across western Canada the northern US states and even from England. 

The electrical plant began operation early in 1911. During construction the plant was consistently ahead of schedule and under budget.  Within three months of operation the venture saw modest profit.  Attention was then given to the installation of the water lines and placement of the wells, and under Mr. Maxwell’s supervision and labor our water system were accredited to being among the best in North America.
PF Smith

Rev. Thomas Torger Carlson


Rev. Thomas Torger Carlson was born March 25, 1864 on Rennes Island, Norway. At the age of 18 he moved to Story County, Iowa and in 1890 he entered seminary in Minnesota.  Rev. Carlson accepted a call to be a missionary to a large population of Lutherans in and around Camrose, Alberta. He arrived in the spring of 1906. Rev. Carlson either started or served in seven parishes: Bardo, Round Hill, Kingman, Camrose, New Norway, Dinant and East Hay Lakes.  All these churches with the exception on 1 are still active and have celebrated 100th anniversaries.

In 1910, T.T. Carlson became vice president of the “Alberta Norwegian Lutheran College Association”, acting on behalf of his congregations. In 1911, prior to the completion of Old Main, he was instrumental in organizing classroom space in 2 local churches and for making arrangements to rent the Heather Brae Hotel for the sum of $200 per month for student lodging.  The Camrose Lutheran College commenced its first school year on October 2, 1911.

Rev. Carlson returned to the US in 1914.  He died in 1932 and is buried at the Turtle Mountain Cemetery.
Blue Smith

Mrs. Carla Didrickson-Hoyme


Mrs. Carla Didrickson-Hoyme joined the teaching staff at Camrose Lutheran College in 1911.  Her extensive musical background influenced the Colleges extraordinary music program, attracting students to the College from great distances. 
Carla was born in Christiana, Norway; her musical talent discovered when she was just 6 years old, allowing her the opportunity to study under the direction of Norway’s foremost piano teacher, Mme. Erica Nissen.  Carla began teaching piano at the young age of 13. Enjoying the benefits of high social surroundings, Carla was able to devote her life to music, her reputation as a skilled pianist was well known. 

Mrs. Didrickson-Hoyme arrived in Camrose a few months prior to accepting the position at Camrose Lutheran College and advertised in the Camrose Canadian for pupils interested in private piano lessons from her home.  The music program continued to be a considerable asset of the College over subsequent decades.

2010

Duncan Sampson

Duncan Sampson


Duncan Sampson, the first merchant in Camrose had the honor of purchasing the first town site lot and built the first business, arriving in Stoney Creek from Ontario in 1904. He remained in business here until 1926, when he moved to New Westminster. He sat on the Town Council from 1910 until 1913, on the School Board, and was also instrumental in helping to organize the Camrose Agricultural Society. He was born May 1, 1859 in Ontario and died in May 5, 1930 in New Westminster, BC.
PF Smith

Dr. P. F. Smith


Perhaps no single person in the history of Camrose has left a deep influence upon general population as did the late Dr. P. F. Smith. Born in Prince Edward Island March 25th, 1873, he studied at John Hopkins University and graduated as a gold medalist. He practiced for a short time in Birmingham, Alabama, but the call of Canada was so strong within him, that he returned to Canada, moving to Camrose in 1912. However, he had to write his Canadian Medical License after coming here, associating himself with the Dr. G. G. Stewart. Besides being official Doctor for the C.N.R., he won the hearts of thousands of patients by his sheer merit and his understanding of human frailty and of those enduring suffering. Besides these commendable traits, he was also a keen horticulturist. He died in 1949 in Camrose.
Blue Smith

Walter William Assheton-Smith - "Blue" Smith


"Blue" Smith was awarded "The Imperial Service Order Medal" which was presented to him in Camrose on September 23rd, 1910. This award had been instituted by King Edward VII in 1902 as a means of rewarding meritorious service in unhealthy places abroad. As far as can be determined, Blue Smith was the only member of the Canadian Mounted police force to ever receive this particular medal. He was known for his faithful attention to detail, was also an artist/poet and was diligent in paying attention to his homestead at Edberg. He was born in London, England, November 27, 1864 and died October 25, 1944 in Ferintosh, AB.

2009

Frederick (Fred) Pratt

Frederick (Fred) Pratt


Born October 16th, 1881 in Westminster Twp., Middlesex County, Ontario.

Came to Camrose in 1909

Died October 6th, 1961

Buried in Camrose Cemetery

He was an agricultural entrepreneur.

Charles T. (Chas) Burrows

Charles T. (Chas) Burrows


Born July 28, 1884, in Beccles, Suffolk, England

Immigrated to Canada 1908 (Edmonton)

Moved to Camrose in 1909

Died July 8, 1961 in Camrose

Buried in Camrose Cemetery

He was a well known building contractor.


2008

Chris Langbell

Chris Langbell


In 1904 the adventurous entrepreneur C. L. (Chris) Langbell set up a photography studio and gallery on Main Street in Camrose which flourished for over 50 years. Besides photography, Chris Langbell had a passion for radio.  In 1928 he initiated his own radio station and the first radio station in Camrose was born.  Langbell was also a founding member of the Camrose Community Band.

Camille David

Camille David


Camille David was a well respected Camrose area rancher and visionary businessman. David sold wines, spirits, and cigars in the fledgling town of Camrose.  He was a partner in the original Windsor Hotel which was located where the Alice Hotel now stands. David is also renowned for founding The David Theatre in 1909. His theatre was designed for popular vaudeville performances. He sold the theatre in 1914 to Stan Bailey, consequently renamed the Bailey Theatre, soon to undergo major restoration.


2007

Frank P. Layton

Frank P. Layton


Frank Layton was born in Great Village, Nova Scotia and in 1906 married Myrtle Whyte in Wetaskiwin.
He was a business owner with interests in real estate, insurance and lumber companies.
He arrived in Camrose in the early 1900s and was the first overseer of the village, the first fire chief and served as mayor from 1911-12. He led many delegations promoting the interests of Camrose.
For more than 30 years he was a Justice of the Peace and gained a wide reputation for fairness and integrity. He was President of the Camrose Board of Trade in 1939, and elected a life member of the organization. He served the United Church as an Elder and was President of the local branch of the British and Foreign Bible Society.

John Russell

John Russell


John Russell was born on a farm near London, Ontario. He studied at the Ottawa Normal School, St. Catherine’s Collegiate, University of Toronto and Queen’s University. He and Adeline Barr were married in 1895.
After teaching in British Columbia and Olds the family moved to Camrose. He was principal of the first Camrose high school from 1907-13 when he was appointed a school inspector in southern Alberta. He returned to Camrose as a school inspector and held the position until he retired in 1934.
He was an avid gardener, and especially proud of the gladioli he grew. He served on the Board of Stewards of the United Church.

He returned to London, Ontario in 1955.
Frank Farley

Frank Farley


Frank Farley was born in St. Thomas, Ontario and made his way west arriving in Camrose in 1907 where he started a real estate business. He seized every opportunity to travel the province to gather data for a work on Alberta birds. Frank published in 1932 “Birds of the Battle River Region of Central Alberta”. He authored many papers, the majority of which appeared in the 'Canadian Field-Naturalist.' In due time Farley won wide recognition on the continent as a lover and student of birds and an ardent conservationist. When in 1921 one of the first bird sanctuaries was established in Alberta just north of Camrose Frank served as warden until 1931. This is now part of Miquelon Lake Provincial Park. He is credited by his nephew Farley Mowat with mentoring him to become a writer of nature.