Beda (Ronn) Hanna
Life and Work
When Beda (Beatrice) Ronn arrived in Wetaskiwin in 1897 the qualities that were to endear her to this community had already begun to unfold. She would become this remarkable pioneer woman who was an untiring worker, a problem solver, and always there to offer help to anyone in need.
She was born to Per Jonsson and Bricken Ronn in 1881 at Undersvik, Helsingland, Sweden. The Ronns came to the United States in 1884, to Alberta in 1895 and finally to Wetaskiwin in 1897 with their family of five daughters and two sons.
Times were difficult for new settlers and the Ronn children had to find jobs for themselves early in life. Beatrice was working out when she was 13 years old and she got $2.50 a month! Later she worked in Macleod and Cranbrook, British Columbia. While in Cranbrook, she was invited to visit friends at Frank, but she couldn't get off work. So it was that she narrowly missed the Frank slide in 1903. The Mother, Father and four brothers of her friends were killed, but three daughters survived.
In 1904, Beda and Lou Hanna were the first couple to be married in the new Bethlehem Lutheran Church situated at 50th Avenue and 48th Street in Wetaskiwin. The church's carol bells rang for the first time on their wedding day.
Their five children were all born at Wetaskiwin - David, Lillian, Gordon, Doris, and Hazel. Around 1910, Mrs. Hanna and the children went to live on the N.E. of 10-46-25 W 4th, seven miles (11.3 kilometres) west of Wetaskiwin, where Mr. Hanna's parents also resided. Mr. Hanna had been appointed Bailiff in 1900 and remained in town in that position.
When the children were attending the country school, Mrs. Hanna started doing practical nursing in the community. She had many calls, too, from the town doctors wanting her to nurse their patients. The older children finished public school and the family moved back into town in 1919. Mrs. Hanna began to do regular nursing from this time on.
Daughter Doris recalls, "(when) we moved into the city, Dr. Shillabeer would pick her up and take her out in the country to help him deliver babies. She would stay with mother and child for several days. She really became a mid-wife through experience and if the doctor couldn't stay for the birth, or arrived too late, it was up to Mother and he would tell her what to do. She would help out at the hospital when they were short-handed and this was all free—gratis."
Her children remember the big garden their mother was able to grow when they were on the farm and the excursions out to the Battle Lake area where wild berries were plentiful. All the berries and garden produce were preserved for use throughout the winter.
During the early years, if there was no undertaker available, she often helped the bereaved by preparing the body of the deceased for burial.
Beda was a member of the Scandinavian Welfare Society for 47 years and particularly active when they were raising funds to help the poor and needy in the country west of Pigeon Lake.
She joined the Wetaskiwin Women's Institute in 1927 and became one of its most active and popular members. She was an untiring worker in the various projects they sponsored. Baby Clinics were organized under her capable leadership, as were Red Cross and Blood Donor Clinics. She was a member of the Bethlehem Lutheran Church and Past Noble Grand Dame of Crescent Rebekah Lodge #6, I.O.O.F., and received a life membership in the Order of the Royal Purple Lodge.
When Wetaskiwin was hit by floods in the spring of 1948, Mrs. Hanna was one of the Red Cross workers who brought hot soup, sandwiches and coffee to the men trying to dam up the flow of water from the west country into the City. They got stuck and had to be rescued. For Mrs. Hannah, then 68 years old, this exciting conclusion to their errand of mercy was just another challenging experience.
Surrounded by all of their children, and all but one of their nine grandchildren, Mr. and Mrs. Hanna celebrated their Golden Anniversary in 1954 at the church where they were married. Nearly three hundred friends and relatives came to honour this long-time Wetaskiwin couple, regarded with affection by a grateful community.
Beda (Ronn) Hanna passed away in July 1957, at the age of 76.
"It would appear Mrs. Hanna was a born nurse. She had experience as a small child in her own home when her twin sisters were born and also when one other brother had blood poisoning. Then she went to visit a school mate when she was only 16 and stayed on to care for a pair of twins that arrived while she was there."
- Wetaskiwin Times, March, 1951.
Our Grandma Hanna by Jeri (Johnsten) Kuehlah
Her hands were so kind,
And I knew them well.
She had so many wonderful
Stories to tell
Tiny knees on the sofa
At the window sill,
We'd await her arrival
It was such a thrill!
From Wetaskiwin by bus
Or by car she'd arrive,
Or we'd go down there
For our Sunday drive.
She'd make us rosettes
Or an angel food cake
Our Grandma Hanna
Could sure cook & bake.
We'd go to her house
For the week of the fair
She'd make us feel special.
We loved going there.
We'd help to fold napkins
At the church hall,
While Grandma cooked dinner
For one and for all.
The good time we shared
I'll always hold dear.
And probably forever
Will wish she was here.
I miss her a lot,
But she is in my heart.
She shared of herself,
Special traits to impart.
To her memory with love,
Jeri (Johnsten) Kuehlah,
- Research and Writing: Evelyn Blanch, Janis Ruitenbeck
- Contributors: Hazel Hanna, Doris Johnston
- Curator: Harriet Liddle