Daisy (Nelson) Lucas
Life and Work
Daisy Nelson was born on February 3, 1906 to Emma and Fred Nelson. Daisy was the first child born in Daysland. The previous year Emma and Fred had left Wetaskiwin and moved to the newly-established village of Daysland. Mr. E.W. Day, who was the mayor, called at the family home soon after her birth. He requested that she be named “Daisy” in honour of the new town, and offered the deed to a village lot in exchange. Her parents concurred and the baby was named "Daisy Mearl Lauretta Nelson". Many years later, a close friend of Daisy’s offered the observation that Daisy lived up to her name, which means “cheerful and happy”.
The family, along with Daisy's two widowed grandfathers Henry Nelson and Tosten Weflen, eventually moved back to Wetaskiwin. In 1912 Daisy's education began at Alexandra School, a building which was built by her grandfather Henry. In 1919, Fred Nelson moved his family to a Soldier's Settlement Farm, in the Lucas District. The Nelson children named it "Sunny Hill Farm". Daisy and her four siblings loved the sense of freedom and space of living on a farm.
In 1923 at the age of 17, Daisy married Cortez Lucas, uniting two pioneer families. Cortez was born in 1899 and was the youngest son of Margaret and Frank Lucas, who had come to the area in 1884. Frank and his brother, Sam Lucas were employed by the government to assist with teaching farming methods to the Native people. A fort block house, Fort Ethier, was erected on their land in 1885 and still stands today.
Daisy and her new husband, settled in the Lucas district, close to Fort Ethier and near Daisy's parents' home. Cortez owned a motorcar, one of only two in the district. The young couple loved socializing and often would travel out of town for dances. It was the era of vaudeville and they would attend the shows at the Pantages Theatre in Edmonton.
In 1924, the first of Daisy's eight children arrived. The family lived in a typical farmhouse with no power or indoor plumbing. Daisy’s niece Colleen (Groves) Dickson recalls that their home had a “wonderful, loving family atmosphere”. Eventually electricity came to the area, and the family's first radio had a horn speaker on a long cord. In the evenings, Daisy would turn on the radio in the front room, and take the speaker into the kitchen where she and her children would listen to Amos and Andy.
The Depression years overtook the family and, though life was hard, the resourceful couple always managed to keep their heads above water. During the 1930's for five years straight, the family was "frozen out, hailed out, dried out and blown out". Everything that could be produced, processed and prepared at home, was done by the Lucas family. Even vinegar and soap were made at home. A truck load of home-grown wheat was ground into flour at MacEachern's Mill and was stored in the spare room. By Daisy's account, she was "so pleased to see the one hundred pound sacks of white No. 1 flour, one bag of No. 2, another of graham flour, cream of wheat and bran".
Although money was in short supply, good times were abundant. Friday night card parties were favourite pastimes as well as dances in the Lucas living room. Cort and Daisy's home became the meeting place for the young people in the district. Wintertime saw the family traveling to school concerts with everyone riding in the horse-drawn sleigh.
It was during these years on the farm, while raising her young family, that Daisy’s interest in the history of the area heightened. Her father-in-law Frank Lucas would stop in to visit and he would talk at length about early pioneer days. At that time, it was hard for Daisy to listen and remember all the stories that Frank told her. In later years, Daisy wished she had listened more intently so that she would have more to add to the local history books. As a young adult, Daisy suffered an injury to her ears and due to her hearing difficulties she wore hearing aids for many years.
When their youngest son Larry was six years old, Cort joined the army and went away to serve in World War II. At this time, the family moved off the farm and made their way back to Wetaskiwin. For five and a half years, Daisy and her eight children worked hard to make ends meet. Daisy sold corsets for the Spirella Company which required her to fit the clients in their homes. She baked bread for the children to sell and always kept a large garden. The older children helped out by working at various jobs around town on weekends. Daisy began boarding young hockey players during the war years to add to the family's income.
With the end of the war, Cort returned home and found work as a heavy equipment operator, building roads. He began working for the Alberta Government, Department of Highways and continued until he died in 1959. In the years when her husband was working on the roads, Daisy often traveled with him. She was in her early 50's when she became a widow.
Soon after Cort's passing, Daisy felt she was needed to take care of her elderly parents. Rising to the occasion, Daisy sold her home and purchased her parents’ house and moved in with them. The three lived together and Daisy continued to look after her parents until they passed away in the late 1960's.
Daisy had always enjoyed gardening and growing flowers. Her floral bouquets were often donated to family and friends for weddings and other occasions. In later years, she took her love of flowers and gardening to another level and joined the Horticultural Society in Wetaskiwin. She often would show her gladiolus and other flowers in the Agricultural Fair. Soon she was asked to become a judge and served as Committee Chairman for Horticulture for the Agriculture Fair for fifteen years.
Daisy found time, in spite of her busy life, to belong to community groups and organizations. For 14 years she was Secretary of Unit II of the United Church Women. In 1952 Daisy joined the Royal Purple and belonged to the organization for 22 years, until 1974. She served as their chaplain during the late 1960's. Her strong sense of giving something back to the community was her legacy to her grandchildren. Darrol Lucas, her grandson, feels that Daisy’s example helped to shape his life in a major way.
In 1960 Daisy helped to found the Wetaskiwin Historical Society. As President, she chronicled Wetaskiwin history as well as past events from the entire surrounding area. Daisy spent many happy hours gathering and corroborating historical information. Material was collected by way of interviews, letters, old papers, and by telephone. Many of the facts and photographs she collected were donated to the City Archives, as well as the Glenbow Foundation and Provincial Archives. She received an Achievement Award from the Alberta Historical Society in 1987 for Outstanding Contributions to Alberta History.
The material compiled by Daisy became the foundation for Wetaskiwin's "Siding 16" history book. The book was published in 1975, a monument to the dedicated efforts of Daisy in accumulating the basic material for the book. She gave generously of her valuable time and her limited financial resources to bring together the history of the area settlers in pioneer days. Daisy also made a significant contribution to the collection of data for "Pioneer Pathways", a history of rural Wetaskiwin.
In 1981, Daisy was named Citizen of the Year, sharing the title with Marie Eikerman and Blanche Recknagle. It was a fitting acknowledgement of Daisy for her years of garnering and preserving the stories of local seniors. The pictures and anecdotes she accumulated provided an invaluable resource to future generations.
With so many community activities crowded into Daisy's daily routine, it seems amazing that she still found time for a creative pastime she enjoyed doing which was quilting. She went into it with a sense of commitment, as she did with every other aspect of her life. Quilts were made for each family member and it was said that in one year, Daisy made 28 quilts. In the last step of construction, friends would join her to help tie the quilts. This afforded an opportunity for socializing which Daisy loved doing.
Playing cards was another of Daisy's favourite leisure activities. It has been said that occasionally she would have a card or two tucked away and though everyone knew, no one ever confronted her about it. Daisy and her friends maintained their "Birthday Club" through the years. It became a tradition to gather to celebrate each other's birthdays with cards, cake and friendship. Family members attest to the welcoming atmosphere of Daisy's home and how much she enjoyed entertaining.
In 1991, at the age of 84 Daisy Lucas passed away, ending a life that was dedicated to preserving the heritage of the area for future generations.
Compiled in 2006.
Compiled by: Gloria Baker
Sources: Barbara Lucas, Marilyn Graves, Danny Lucas, Mac & Dora Lucas, Ric Bennett, Christine Thorpe, Darrol Lucas, Maureen Lundblad, Noeline Kerr, Colleen Dickson, City of Wetaskiwin Archives