Una (Olsen) Dowswell




Life and Work

Born September 26, 1925 in Ferintosh, Alberta to parents Ileza and Jens Olsen, Una was the second youngest among her seven siblings. She finished Grade 11 from Red Deer College before marrying Charles Dowswell in the spring of 1945. She and Charles moved to Angus Ridge with the intention of starting their new family. Charles’ parents had a property on the homestead where Una and Charles settled down to raise five children: Dale, Roy, Arlene, Lori, and Robyn.

Una was a strong believer in the value of hard work. Between having five children to feed and the constant demands of farming, she still managed to find time for volunteering and community involvement. She would encourage her children to work hard, and as a mother, a wife, and a farmer, they learned from her example. She always made suppers with a full dessert for her entire family, and during threshing season she would prepare meals for the entire crew to enjoy with a tall glass of ice tea in the fields.

Far from only keeping busy with chores in the house, Una never shied away from farming labour. Every year she would drive the truck during harvest season, navigating through the Battle River valley, which was never easy. She always managed to make it though and could easily line the truck up with the combines to fill up with grain. Having children never slowed her down either. As daughter Arlene recalls, “Whatever baby was born at that time, went along in the truck”. Tucked in right behind Una, the baby would be fed and looked after while Una helped Charles and his labourers. Una always worked to make sure the farm and house were running smoothly. Between helping with seeding and harvest, caring for her gardens, animals, and children, cleaning and cooking, as well as working and volunteering outside the home, Una was constantly busy helping others. Her widower Charles remembers how she always worked harder than any other man on the farm did. An expert gardener, Una would grow both flowers and vegetables every year. The vegetables were harvested and frozen so that they could be stored to be used throughout the winter for meals. Many spring and summer mornings were spent throughout the season weeding and nurturing the huge garden, in order to keep down grocery bill during the long winter months. Una had a true green thumb, and so growing her flower garden in addition to produce was no trouble. She somehow found enough time to cultivate all manner of blossoms, which she would carefully care for and nurture. Every year she would take her blooming beauties to competitions, and she always seemed to return with a blue ribbon. At the Wetaskiwin Mall she won plenty of awards for her floral arrangements.

Always community-minded, Una loved sharing her talents and teaching others. For many decades she volunteered at the swimming pool in Wetaskiwin where she taught one-on-one lessons to adults who had a fear of water. She had a gift for making others feel comfortable, even when they were terrified. Her charm put people at ease, and most everyone felt they could trust her. She helped dozens of people get over their debilitating phobia of swimming.

She also spread her love of arts and crafts by teaching ceramic lessons at Rosebrier School and the Wetaskiwin Arts Centre. The passion Una felt for arts was obvious as she spent much of her time learning new techniques from crafting ceramics to oil paintings, watercolours, acrylic painting, and much more. Friend Vi Dyberg remembers Una as being “such a terrifically talented lady, who was always a very good teacher”. Una was extremely gifted, and was at her happiest when she was creating through her art.

A unique form of art that Una excelled in was her cake decorating. It started out as simply doing birthday cakes for family, but Una’s reputation for her lovely cake creations quickly grew until the entire community knew of her skill. She did a lot of wedding cakes and baked and decorated cakes for parties all over the city. Her skill was such that she even baked and decorated a former Mayor of Edmonton’s daughter’s wedding cake. Also on her resume was an impressive 13 ft. cake she baked and decorated for the 75th anniversary of the City of Wetaskiwin. But she always made sure she had time to make cakes for each of her grandchildren’s birthdays.

When her daughters became involved in the local 4-H, Una gladly volunteered to help the gardening club and lead the sewing club. She stayed with 4-H for as long as her children were a part of it. Una was consistently involved in helping her children become an involved member of the community. Community ball games and picnics served a large part of local entertainment.

Education and personal betterment were highly valued by Una. She was very progressive and unique at the time for her stance that she insisted all her children receive an education. As a result of her encouragement, all five children went to university or accomplished post-secondary training which was a rare feat, especially for women, at the time.

Going on road trips was a popular past time for the family as well. Weekend trips all over Alberta were enjoyed. On summer Sundays when the weather was nice they would all pack in the family car and take a trip to Red Deer Lake for the day. Visits to zoo’s, sightseeing in Banff, and camping trips are all fondly remembered by her children.

A woman who worked hard, loved creating art, and teaching, Una encouraged her children and left a lasting impression on all who knew her. She passed away April 29, 2008.

Compiled in 2013.


Compiled by Spencer Moore.

Sources: Charles Dowswell, Lori Dyberg, Vi Dyberg, Arlene Jackson