Gladys (Skage, Clark) McDermand




Life and Work

Gladys was born in Edmonton on April 30, 1914, the daughter of Aksel and Laura Skage. When Aksel disembarked in the U.S.A. from Norway there were so many Andersons arriving at the same time that the border officials changed his surname to Skage, similar to an area he came from in Norway.

Shortly after she was born, Gladys became very ill. The doctors thought she was one of the first cases of polio. She lived with a doctor and his wife while recovering until she could walk. They wanted to adopt her.

She took her education at the Highlands School in Edmonton with her sisters, Lily, Austrin, Myrtle, and Agnes and brother Melvin. Gladys had a great sense of humour which carried her through difficult times. She carried her youngest sister to school as she was so small. She graduated and went to work at a laundromat near their farm. She met Peter David Clark, a mechanic. They were married in 1932. Their daughter Jean was born in 1934 and they moved to Lacombe. In 1935, they moved to Alix and lived above Edgar's Hardware.

Gladys and Pete were members of the Oddfellows and Rebeccas. Gladys liked to cook, bake, knit and sew. She kept a journal for years. They moved several times in Alix. She always had a large garden and flowers, especially sweet peas. She made many of Jean's clothes as well as her own. She also made Pete's shirts. She attended the Presbyterian Church in Alix.

In 1939 Pete was called up and sent over in the First Canadian Battalion. The Skages moved from Edmonton to the Blackburn Farm outside of Alix on Haunted Lake. Gladys and Jean moved out to the Blackburn Farm with the Skages to help Grandma Skage with the work.

Many travelers on the railway would hop off the train and stay in the barn on the farm where they were often fed and clothed.

Gladys walked to Alix to her Rebecca meetings. She attended the Anglican Church with neighbours Edgar and Green and Ethel and Johnny McMahon. They also attended the Anglican Ladies Group. Gladys worked in their large garden and picked milk pails full of berries. She knitted socks, scarves, gloves, mitts and sweaters for the Red Cross and also sent packages overseas to Pete and her brother Melvin.

Pete returned to Canada in 1943 badly injured and the reunited family moved to Lake Street in Alix. Gladys was very busy again gardening, baking, and helping neighbours like Mrs. Pears. She was also involved with the Library, Anglican Church and Rebeccas' fundraising.

Gladys and Pete moved nine times putting gardens and houses in A 1 condition. Gladys also embroidered beautiful scarves, pillowcases, etc. Gladys worked for a few years in Whitfields' Electric Store. Pete passed away in 1952.

Dave McDermand needed a housekeeper so Gladys moved out to the Stanton district. Helping to raise his son Rod and her garden kept her busy. Gladys married Dave in 1964. Gladys worked alongside Dave, expanding the farm, clearing land and starting a dairy. At the same time she had a large garden, fruit trees and kept on baking, quilting and knitting for grandchildren and neighbours.

Dave retired from milking and both Gladys and Dave became involved in the Alix Museum. They spent many hours cleaning and rebuilding the old pool hall in the long project to turn it into the Alix Wagon Wheel Museum. They also donated material and equipment to get the museum up and running. At the same time, they were instrumental in getting the area history book, Pioneers and Progress, published. Dave and his son Rod drove to Calgary with their farm truck to pick up the books. Gladys and Dave travelled to many museum meetings within Alberta, touring and learning what makes a good museum.

After Dave passed away, Gladys continued to work in the museum, cleaning and doing the books. Even with cancer she continued to do the museum books and make quilts for her grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Gladys passed away February 19, 1998 and is greatly missed!