150 Okotokians Who Have Made a Difference Q-Z

In celebration of Canada's 150th birthday, the Okotoks Museum and Archives presents 150 Okotokians who have made a difference in our community -past or present. New people will be posted each week!

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Bill Robertson

Bill Robertson has devoted his life to public service, first as a public school teacher and then holding public office as a councillor and mayor. Bill was first elected to Okotoks Council in 1995, and served five three-year terms as a councillor. He was elected mayor in 2010 and was re-elected in 2013 and 2017. During his service on council he has served on every council board and committee, numerous regional committees and has championed Okotoks throughout Alberta and Canada. He’s well respected among his peers and served as chairman of the Calgary Regional Partnership in 2015. Bill was a teacher for 32 years, including 18 years at Percy Pegler Elementary School where he inspired a love of math and physical activity. Many students remember playing floor hockey and Mission Impossible in the gym. In 2012, the gymnasium at Percy Pegler School was named the Bill Robertson Gymnasium in his honour.

Ted Robinson

Edmund (Ted) Robinson was elected to serve out the role as mayor in 1929 following the resignation of Malcolm MacGougan. Ted was re-elected as mayor in 1930 and 1931. Ted came to Okotoks in 1918 where he and his brother-in-law John Wilson operated a machinery business. They later built a garage and machinery business on the southeast corner of Elizabeth Street and Centre Avenue. He also served on the school board, and was a member of the Masonic Lodge and Elks Lodge. Ted passed away in 1948. Robinson Drive in Okotoks is named after him.

Paul Rockley

Few people have helped foster a sense of community in Okotoks like Paul Rockley has.

Paul came to Okotoks in 1989 to become publisher of the Okotoks Western Wheel. He served as publisher for 26 years, going above and beyond in promoting and supporting every aspect of the community.

He launched the ‘Western Wheel Cares’ fundraising event which has raised thousands of dollars for such charities as the Okotoks Food Bank, Rowan House Emergency Shelter, Foothills Country Hospice, Sheep River Health Trust and Magic of Christmas.

Paul has been a Rotarian for over 25 years and spearheaded the Rib Cook-off, the Okotoks Path System Project, Soap Box Derby and Leaders of Tomorrow awards among many others. He served on the Foothills Community Centre Building Committee, was one of the first sponsors of the Okotoks Pro Rodeo and was instrumental in the Okotoks Food Bank capital expansion. Paul was the recipient of the Unsung Hero Award by the Okotoks Chamber of Commerce in 2009 and in June 2017, Paul was inducted into the Okotoks Hall of Fame as a community builder.

Arnold Roseland

For over 50 years, the residents of St. Martin de Mailloc, France never knew the name of the courageous young pilot who was shot down over their village during World War II. The heroic pilot manoeuvred his plummeting aircraft into a nearby field in order to avoid crashing into a house sheltering many people in the small village located in Normandy. 

The mystery was finally solved in 1999 when the mayor of St. Martin de Mailloc, Pierre Behier, tracked down the identification of the unknown pilot -it was Flight Lieutenant Arnold "Rosey" Roseland of Okotoks.

Behier was a teenager when he witnessed the crash on July 13, 1944. He and other villagers watched helplessly as the Royal Canadian Air Force Squadron 442 was caught in a dogfight with about a dozen German fighter planes. When Roseland's Spitfire was shot down, Behier and others ran to help the pilot, but before they could reach him, German soldiers had already arrived, stripping Roseland of any identifying documentation. The only clues to his identity were his Canadian shoulder patch and a cigarette lighter which was inscribed 'Roseland.' The villagers buried the pilot in their cemetery under an anonymous marker. Right after the war, Canadian military authorities, who knew of Roseland's reconnaissance mission, retrieved the body and placed it in the Bretteville-Sur-Laize Canadian War Cemetery at Calvados, France.

And so began the hunt for the identity of the pilot and his surviving family. In July, 1999, Behier successfully tracked down the Roseland family. Roseland's youngest son, Ron, was only nine months old when his father died. Ron, along with his own sons, helped commemorate a war memorial in St. Martin de Mailloc in his father's honour. 

Also in 1999, members of the Comox Air Force Museum on Vancouver Island began an arduous project to construct a Supermarine Spitfire IX. When finished, this Spitfire will fly with the Y2-K markings made famous by the 422 Squadron of World War II. Y2-K was flown by many individual pilots of 442, but none came close to the 65 sorties on which it was flown by a man known to his friends simply as Rosey. It is being named the Roseland Spitfire in honour of this Okotoks hero. 

Orville Rowland

Orville Rowland proved the sky is the limit in Okotoks. Orville was a third generation resident of this area whose grandfather homesteaded near Aldersyde in 1883. Orville was an avid pilot and in the 1970s he purchased land on the eastern edge of Okotoks with the dream of establishing an airport and a lake/golf course residential development. The private air strip went into service in 1978 and was open to other users and accommodated fixed wing aircraft as well as helicopter training. His passion for aviation extended to collecting and displaying vintage aircraft. For many years, a T-33 was mounted at the entrance to the Okotoks Airport. In 1998, Orville donated the T-33 as well as a Beech 18 Expeditor to the Bomber Command Museum in Nanton for all to enjoy.

Orville's vision for a residential development also came true. The home he and his wife Svea built is now the clubhouse of the Crystalridge Golf Club. Orville passed away in 2003 at the age of 69 years.

James Prosser Rowles

James Prosser Rowles was born and raised in Okotoks, the youngest son of Kansas and Annie Rowles who were pioneers of the area. He served in World War II as a lance corporal with the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps. He was fatally injured on Friday, May 25, 1945 when the tank he was in rolled down an embankment, throwing him from the tank and rolling on top of him. He was 31. He was buried at the Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery in Gelderland, Netherlands. Most of those buried at Groesbeek died during the Battle of the Rhineland. He was married with two small children.

Nick Ruigrok

Nick Ruigrok has a passion for sport and a strong belief that all children should have a chance to play sports. Nick founded the Okotoks KidSport chapter in 2007, a local charity which allows children the opportunity to play organized sports who might not otherwise afford it. He was the organization's heart and soul for six years, impacting the lives of hundreds of children and inspiring other community members to become involved with the program. Nick has also mentored athletes as a hockey, soccer and lacrosse coach for many years. His selfless efforts were rewarded with the opportunity to carry the Winter Olympic torch through RBC’s local heroes program in 2010. He was also a runner-up in the United Farmers of Alberta Small Town Heroes contest in 2012.

Shelley Sager

Shelley Sager has been a tireless volunteer in Okotoks for over four decades. She served as a volunteer firefighter in Okotoks for several years, and then served as the department's dispatcher. Shelley has been almost a permanent fixture at the Okotoks Curling Rink, at both the old one on South Railway Street and the one at the recreation centre, where she's been active on and off the ice. In addition to curling recreationally, she shared her passion for curling with younger generations by establishing the Mini Rock Curling Club. She also served as the kitchen coordinator at the rink. 

Shelley's other passion, baseball, resulted in her starting the Okotoks Ladies Slowpitch League in the late 1970s. She organized several slowpitch tournaments to raise funds for a variety of worthy causes, including the fire department and STARS air ambulance. In honour of her commitment to the town, Shelley was named Okotoks Citizen of the Year in 1989. 

Leah Sampson and Rachel Swendseid

Leah Sampson and Rachel Swendseid are the driving force behind ‘It Takes a Village Community Foundation’ which has been helping families in the Foothills for the past two years. It Take a Village’ is a registered non-profit society which provides essential baby items to families in the Foothills that are facing economic hardships. Leah, founder and current past-president, and Rachel, the current president, recognized the economic challenges faced by many families coupled with the often overwhelming challenges of raising a newborn. As a result, It Takes a Village provides families free essential baby supplies in the first year of their baby's life. It also offers two other programs for families, the free car seat program and the Baby Sleep Safe program which provides free cribs and mattresses to those in need. As founder, Leah has inspired a community of others to make ‘It Takes a Village’ a success. From its volunteer board members and volunteer box packers to its donors, sponsors, and working in connection with community organizations,  the society has truly lived up to its name. 

Lester Scanlon

Lester Scanlon graduated from SAIT in 1974 as a journeyman chef and pursued his passion for cooking throughout his life. Lester and his wife Charmayne moced to Okotoks in 1976 where they owned and operated the Lazy L Pizza and Steak House. Lester was a tireless community booster, particularly for local business and sports. He served on the Okotoks and District Chamber of Commerce for many years including serving three years as president. He was also involved with many hockey and baseball teams, investing both time and sponsorship. Lester was one of the driving forces behind the creation of the Okotoks 85ers Junior B team in 1985 and served as its managing director. He was also involved with the Okotoks Oilers organization, including a term as president. Lester often kept his restaurant open late to feed the players after the game. In 1986, Lester and his wife Charmayne were named Okotoks Citizens of the Year. After 17 years in Okotoks, the Scanlons moved to Mountain View.

Lester passed away in 2001. 

Terry Siqueira

Terry Siqueira inspires students, staff and parents every day at St. Mary’s School. Terry has been a teacher for over 30 years, spending most of his career at Christ the Redeemer School Division with Good Shepherd and St. Mary’s Schools. He has been a finalist in the Alberta Excellence in Teaching Awards, and he is often among the winners in the Western Wheel’s Readers’ Choice Awards for Best Teacher in the Foothills. Terry loves to share his passion for music with others, both in the classroom and in the community. He and his family often perform at charity and church events. In 2007 he wrote a song for the annual elementary schools’ joint Terry Fox Run, turned it into a CD and raised money for the Terry Fox Foundation. Terry displays an unwavering faith, quiet determination and a ‘never quit’ attitude in everything he does, and that is especially true when it comes to long-distance running. He has been a role model to his students, fellow athletes and to the community about the benefits of healthy living and striving to do one’s best.

Gerry Stewart

Gerardine (Gerry) Stewart moved to Okotoks in 1942 and served as a teacher for many years at the Okotoks Lower School. She treated all students with kindness and respect, which in turn made her a much-loved and respected teacher. Gerry was a member of the St. James Catholic Women’s League, which just celebrated its 75th anniversary. Gerry was a tireless worker with the CWL, contributing to many church projects to aid the community. Gerry also had a passion for painting and writing, and she wrote many poems and short stories about events and characters who impacted her life. Gerry passed away in 2011. Stewart Park in the Westridge subdivision is named after Gerry and her husband Don’s contributions to the town. 

Archie Stockton

Archie Stockton was born April 2, 1894, the son of John Wesley Stockton and Agnes Lavinia Stockton of Okotoks.

Pte. Stockton enlisted on June 30, 1916 and served with the 43rd Battalion of the Cameron Highlanders of Canada during World War I. He was wounded in October, 1917, but returned to the trenches in late February of 1918. Two weeks later, on March 6, 1918, Pte. Stockton died in battle. He was 23 years old. Pte. Stockton is buried at the Thelus Military Cemetery in Pas de Calais, France.

Frederick Stockton

Dr. Frederick Stockton was one of the first medical doctors to practice in Okotoks. He financed the large brick Stockton Block in 1903 which housed his medical practice, as well as a drugstore, Union Bank, apartments, and offices. Dr. Stockton also served as the town's first mayor following its incorporation in 1904, making Okotoks the first community between Calgary and Fort Macleod to be incorporated. Streets in the Okotoks Business Park are named in his honour. 

James Teskey

In 1916, at the age of 18, James Edward Teskey of Okotoks enlisted with the 137th Overseas Battalion during World War I. The unit became the 50th Battalion (Alberta Regiment). On April 24, 1917, Pte. Teskey, a machine-gunner, joined his unit in the field on the Souchez River between Avion and Lens, northeast of Vimy Ridge. The unit was responsible for manning the trenches along with the 44th and 46th Battalions.  On June 5, 1917, Pte. Teskey was reported as fatally wounded in battle. He was 19. He is buried at the Barlin Communal Cemetery near Bethune, France.

W.J. Thompson

W. J. Thompson was elected mayor of Okotoks in August of 1926 after the resignation of Mayor George Welch. He was elected over Edmund Robinson by a vote of 52-40. Mr. Thompson came to Okotoks in 1903 and operated a tin shop on Daggett Street, later operating on North Railway Street and then on McRae Street. He was an active member of the Presbyterian Church (later the United Church) as well as the Masons. He was a life-long supporter of Okotoks hockey and served as vice-president of the Okotoks Hockey Club in the 1920s when Okotoks clinched two provincial intermediate championships. He passed away in 1940.

Thor Thorson

Thor Thorson was born in Norway and moved to Okotoks in 1922. He was a grain buyer for Hogg & Lytle which later became Parish and Heimbecker.

Thor served on Okotoks council for almost 20 years, first as a councillor beginning in 1928 and then he was named mayor in 1943 upon the resignation of Mayor Victor Hessel. He finished that term and then was elected by acclamation in Feb. 1944 for another two-year term. Thor helped guide the community through the tense days of World War II when many young men and women from Okotoks -including two of his own -were serving their country. Thor was a founding member of the Farmers Bonspiel in 1938 and he was also a member of the Masonic Lodge and Okotoks United Church. He passed away in 1972. Thorson Crescent and Thorson Place in Okotoks are named after him. 

Ethel Tucker

Born at Davisburg in 1912, Ethel Tucker devoted her life to the community. She was named the town's first Citizen of the Year in 1976 for her tireless volunteerism with such organizations as the Okotoks Food Bank, Arthritis Society, Canadian Red Cross, Okotoks Horse Show, Okotoks Oilers and Foothills Bisons hockey teams. Ethel also managed the Sears catalogue office in Okotoks. She never married, however, she considered the citizens of Okotoks to be her large, extended family. Ethel passed away in 1995 and friends offered this tribute: "Ethel stood out as a symbol of all pioneer women of Western Canada -hard working, courageous, bearing pain without complaint, always ready with a helping hand. Her heart was as big as the outdoors." Centennial Park was renamed Ethel Tucker Centennial Park in 1995. 

John Vanderpant

John Vanderpant emigrated from the Netherlands to Okotoks in 1911. A self-taught photojournalist, Vanderpant established a photography studio, the Okotoks Studio, in 1912. Fire destroyed his business in 1914, but he was able to save some of his equipment and managed to take several dramatic photographs of the fire. In 1919, Vanderpant moved to New Westminster, B.C., where he established a successful commercial photography studio. Seven years later, he and Harold Mortimer-Lamb opened the Vanderpant Galleries on Robson Street in Vancouver, which became a centre for music, poetry, and painting. Vanderpant began exhibiting in international salons, quickly achieving acclaim and winning awards around the world; his solo exhibitions toured the U.S., Great Britain, and Europe. A fellow of the Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain, he also wrote and lectured widely. 

Vanderpant is considered one of Canada's most renowned photographers. He passed away in 1939. Source: Historica Canada. 

Tom Visser

Originally from Holland, Antoine (Tom) Visser came to Okotoks in 1911. He established a building contracting business and built such community buildings as the Masonic Hall, the Elks Hall, and the Okotoks Arena. He was also one of the first builders of wooden oil derricks in Alberta, following the discovery of oil in Turner Valley in 1914. He built wooden rigs in Turner Valley, Lethbridge, Foremost, Sweetgrass, and Viking, among other locations. 

Tom was also very active in municipal politics. He was serving as a councillor under Okotoks Mayor Harold Banister when Banister died in office in October of 1934. Members of council voted to appoint Tom Visser to serve out the rest of the mayor's term until 1936. Tom was re-elected in February, 1936 but died while serving as mayor in December, 1936. A street in Okotoks is named after him. 

Harry Waldron

Matthew Henry (Harry) Waldron served two terms as mayor of Okotoks from 1946-48 and 1948-1949. He came to Okotoks in 1928 and opened an automotive garage, Okotoks Motors which he operated until his retirement in 1952. Harry also served as justice of the peace, president of the Okotoks Board of Trade and a member of the Okotoks Elks Lodge. He also served as president of the Alberta Elks Association. He passed away in 1956.

Dr. Eric Wasylenko

Dr. Eric Wasylenko, a palliative care physician and clinical ethicist, was the driving force behind the creation of the Foothills Country Hospice. He was a founding board member of the Foothills Country Hospice Society, serving as its president and board chair from 2003-07 and its medical director in 2008-09. 

His distinguished medical career has been long and diverse, ranging from his family practice at the Sheep River Medical Centre in Okotoks to his current role as Clinical Associate Professor, Division of Palliative Medicine, Department of Oncology at the University of Calgary, as well as being a Clinical Lecturer at the John Dossetor Health Ethics Centre at the University of Alberta. Dr. Wasylenko has received numerous professional awards including the Medal of Distinguished Service from the Alberta Medical Association in 2010 and the Dr. William Marsden Award for Medical Ethics by the Canadian Medical Association in 2014. He has also been honoured locally with the Okotoks Rotary Club Integrity Award in 2009 and he was named the Okotoks Citizen of the Year in 2007. 

Ray Watrin

Ray Watrin, raised south of Okotoks, had an impressive 11-year career in the Canadian Football League. Ray was drafted by the Calgary Stampeders in 1969 and went on to play for the B.C. Lions, Winnipeg Blue Bombers, the Montreal Alouettes, and the Ottawa Rough Riders. He played in five Grey Cups as an Alouette, winning two of them (1974 and 1977). Ray had retired in 1976 but came out of retirement in 1977 and played three more years before retiring a second time in 1980 as an Ottawa Rough Rider. He was the Eastern nominee for the Canadian Schenley Award in the categories of Outstanding Offensive Lineman and Top Canadian in 1979. He won the Leo Dandurand Trophy in 1979 and was named to the Eastern and Canadian All Star Team that year. 

In 1982, Ray returned to Okotoks where he dedicated himself to building the sport of football. He was the first coach of the Foothills Composite High School Falcons, coached the Calgary Colts junior team and founded the Foothills Eagles bantam football. Ray was inducted into the Okotoks Hall of Fame in the athlete category in 2013. Ray continues to contribute to the community as a councillor and is currently in his second term on Okotoks Town Council. 

Bruce Weaver

Bruce Weaver served as a volunteer firefighter in Okotoks for 23 years and a fire chief for six and a half years, during the 1970s, 80s and 90s. Serving as fire chief was truly a family commitment as his children can attest: ‘We had a black rotary dial phone in our house (without a dial) that would receive the emergency calls. As children we were trained to answer it and run to get dad from the shop. It had a red button to push in the event of a true fire, which would set off the town's fire siren, alerting other available firefighters to come to the hall.’

Bruce was instrumental in getting the first ambulance stationed in Okotoks and encouraged many Okotoks volunteers to take EMT training. He also led the fundraising and financing efforts for several new fire trucks, a rescue vehicle and the Jaws of Life. He rescued many people, and sadly lost a few as well. Bruce was presented a medal from the Queen recognizing his over 20 years of service to the community.

 Bruce was also a member of the Okotoks Lions Club for several years, actively contributing to the numerous community projects the club organized.

The MD of Foothills’ welcome signs are also a legacy to Bruce’s ‘real job’ as a carpenter. Bruce designed, constructed, carved and painted the large signs that have, for 30-plus years, welcomed travellers coming into the MD from all directions. 

Greg Wedderburn

Born and raised in Okotoks, Greg Wedderburn grew up at the hockey rink and captained just about every team he was on. When he wasn't playing hockey, Greg was coaching hockey. He started coaching as a teenager in 1963 and continued to inspire new generations of hockey players for the next 30 years at all levels. Greg was instrumental in bringing the Junior A Oilers to Okotoks in 2004. He literally helped build the Junior A Oilers organization into what it is today --he was always rolling up his sleeves and getting things done. 

Greg's commitment to the community went beyond hockey. He taught in Okotoks for 31 years, first at Percy Pegler School and then at Okotoks Junior High School where he coached volleyball, track and field, and football. He inspired and challenged his students to excel both in the classroom and in the community. Greg passed away in 2013. 

Lawrie Wedderburn

Lawrence Wedderburn, known as “Lawrie”, has lived on his family farm north of Okotoks since 1938.  He married Betty Lock of Okotoks in 1947 and together they raised six children. Lawrie farmed the property with his father until his father’s passing in 1957, and since then, Lawrie, along with his sons, have farmed the property to the present day.

Lawrie was a member of the Okotoks Recreation Centre Triplex Committee, which helped in officially opening the building to the public on Jan. 9, 1982.  He managed the original Okotoks Oilers hockey team for many years and, as a director, played a part in bringing to Okotoks the current Oilers Junior A Hockey Club.   Lawrie was involved with minor hockey for many years.  All five of his sons were avid hockey players, and at one time four of his sons played on the Okotoks Oilers hockey team together.  Lawrie was honoured with the Okotoks Rotary Club “Integrity” Award in 1995 for his contributions to the community, including the Okotoks Oilers and Okotoks Pro Rodeo.  Lawrie was also an active member of the Okotoks Curling Club, D’Arcy Ranch Golf Club, and is a season ticket holder for the Oilers Junior A Hockey Club.

George Welch

George Welch served seven years as mayor of the Town of Okotoks. He served two two-year terms in 1918-19 and 1920-21. He then served a three-year term from 1923 to 1926. George and his family came to Okotoks from Ontario in 1912. He was the manager of two Hogg & Lytle grain elevators in Okotoks and was also active with the Okotoks Masons. The former Welch home, originally located on Elizabeth Street, is now home to the Okotoks Museum and Archives.

Jack Wentworth

Born in Okotoks in 1925, Jack ran Wentworth's General Store on North Railway Street, first working for his father Clifford and then operating the store on his own until his sudden passing in 1975. Jack's kindness and generosity to customers and to the community was without limit. Like his father, Jack had a reputation of helping out customers when times were tough and money short. Jack also supported just about every club and organization in town, and was an active member of every service club. This included the Elks Club, Country Club, Masonic Lodge, and Lions Club. He also served on the executive board of the Okotoks Oilers Hockey Club during the 1960s and served on Okotoks Council from 1963-68, during which time he also served on the local Canada Centennial Committee. He was also a member of St. Peter's Anglican Church Choir. 

Bill Wylie

Wylie Athletic Park, which encompasses the Okotoks Recreation Centre and adjoining recreational space, was officially dedicated in 1986 to honour the long-standing community service of Bill Wylie. Bill was elected to council in 1973 and then served four terms (12 years) as mayor from 1978 to 1989. Bill was also a member of the Okotoks Volunteer Fire Department for 12 years and very active with the Okotoks Lions Club. Bill was the driving force behind the development of the much-needed recreation centre and the 47-acre master recreation site, which now bears his name. 

Colonel Alfred Wyndham

Alfred Wyndham came west from Ontario and served as commander of the 12th Battalion of York Rangers during the Riel Rebellion of 1885. He liked the west so much he returned in 1886 followed the next year by his wife Caroline and family of six boys and five girls. He was given a Northwest Rebellion script of one quarter section and another homestead quarter near Carseland. He named his ranch Dinton after his ancestral home in England. Soon the whole district was known as Dinton. In 1910, the Wyndhams moved into Okotoks to a home on Elma Street West, opposite St. Peter's Anglican Church.

Colonel Wyndham was politically active and ran for the Conservative party in the territorial government in 1898 but lost to the Liberal candidate. He maintained a strong interest in political affairs and often the pages of the Okotoks Review were filled with his political commentary on provincial and national events. The colonel was a staunch supporter of St. Peter's and helped finance the town's first covered rink in 1912. He passed away in 1914 at the age of 77. 

Beatrice Wyndham

In 1919, Beatrice Wyndham became the first woman ever elected to public office in Okotoks. She served on the Okotoks School Board for 12 years. Beatrice was a tireless community worker. She served on the Okotoks Agricultural Society's fair board, volunteered with the Red Cross, was a member of the St. Peter's Anglican Church women's auxiliary and the Okotoks Book Club, and was an avid curler on a team she called the 'Wild Cat Team.' That was a fitting name for a tenacious woman who wasn't afraid to stand up for her beliefs. A park is named after her in the Drake Landing subdivision. 

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