Frances (Hayes) McKillop

Red Deer


Life and Work

In 1950, Frances McKillop, a widowed mother of one, travelled muddy and rough roads to a wedding dance at the Bearberry Hall. She knew no one but the friend who invited her. The year before, Frances' husband had died leaving her with their infant daughter.

The joy of the revellers, the warmth of the pot-bellied stove and the light of kerosene lamps greeted them. The Dunwoody Band played, as Frances danced with the people of Bearberry, until the last strains of 'Home Sweet Home' sent them on their way at dawn. That night lingers in Frances' memory, a reception to the place she would make her home. In time, she married into the community, becoming an integral part of its life and work.

Frances McKillop's first experience of hospitality 'Bearberry Style' stayed with her and she continues the tradition of welcoming the newly arrived. Each child born in the Bearberry district receives a quilt, often stitched by the hand of Frances McKillop.

Frances has been the hub of the wheel in her family and community ... many women remember Frances as a Guide leader, she has given her expertise in convening community gatherings, getting our history book started and making sure senior citizens receive a box of goodies at the Christmas concert. She persevered in equipping our hall so we can feed the multitudes ... through all of this she has made her living as a rancher ... Frances has become "Mrs. Bearberry."

- The Bearberry Community, Heart of Gold nomination, July 1988