Winnifred (Brunner) Peterson
Life and Work
Winnifred Brunner was born March 22, 1910, on a farm in the Lewisville district, south east of Wetaskiwin. Her parents, George and Mary Brunner, were of German heritage and moved west from Ontario. Her siblings were Velma Rosina, Georgia Mary, Jacob George, August Edwin and Lucy Jean May (all deceased).
Winnifred grew up on a homestead without electricity, central heating, indoor plumbing, refrigeration, telephone or car. The nearest doctor was fifteen miles (24.2 kilometres) away, in Ferintosh, and the nearest hospital was twenty miles (32.2 kilometres) away in Wetaskiwin. Transportation was with horse and wagon or sleigh. Supplies were bought from travelling salesmen or ordered from the Eaton's catalogue. To get their mail a family member would walk approximately two miles to the post office in Lewisville until rural delivery was established, around 1915. The family was largely self-sufficient.
She attended Rose Briar School until grade eight and Ferintosh School until the completion of grade ten. Prior to her marriage she worked as a homemaker and caregiver for families with new babies.
Winnifred married Edward Perterson on June 15, 1932 and has resided in Wetaskiwin since. They had three children, Rita Jean, Gwendolyn Alma and Arthur Eric. Along with her wifely and motherly duties Winnifred was a seamstress. Winnifred and her husband moved into Grandpa Peterson's home in 1941. She began taking in boarders in their home around 1951. In 1962 they moved into a new house and converted the old house strictly into a boarding house. This lasted for about 4 years and then in 1966 they moved back into the old house on 5218 - 51 Ave.
In 1969 Winnifred worked as a clerk for the local Credit Union. Along with her busy schedule she cared for her husband's and her parents when they required assistance.
During her later life she attended spring sessions for seniors at the University of Alberta for fourteen years specializing in creative writing. In addition to taking creative writing classes, locally, she took art lessons from Professor Wolfarth.
Her daily routine was centered on the care and nurturing of her family. In summer her attention was to gardening, preserving (especially picking and preserving berries) and holidays at Ma Me-O Beach, Pigeon Lake.
Sundays meant a trip to Grandpa and Grandma Brunner's farm. This visit usually included chicken dinner with the finest linen, dishes and cutlery, the chicken having met its' fate earlier in the day. Included, sometimes, was a trip from the farm to Red Deer Lake for a swim and picnic. Pop and ice cream was available there for purchase.
She enjoyed early morning hours and after having completed routine tasks she took an afternoon nap. Before supper she would usually work on some handiwork. She always "dressed up" to go "uptown" but immediately changed her clothes upon returning or prior to preparing the meal.
She always managed to have surprise homemade gifts for the family at Christmas. It was never understood how she could keep so many secrets. Visitors were frequent in her home and they usually stayed for dinner. Winnifred's door was always open to family and friends.
Winnifred was a member of many community organizations. She belonged to the ladies "PT" classes in the 1940's and the local bridge club. She became a "life time member" of "The Women of Moose Lodge" during which she held the positions of Senior Reagent for one year and Recorder for approximately 20 years. She belonged to the Co-op Guild and held the positions of president, secretary and treasurer. Additional organizations she belonged to were the Canadian Cooperative Federation and NDP, Womens' Institute (Malmo), Home and School Association, Twilighters, Choralaires, and Moose Choir, Senior Drop - in Centre (on the original committee that started the centre), secretary for the Horticultural Society and the Volunteer Visitor Association.
Winnifred was a good sport, always wanting to do something adventurous. She loved to have fun. In her later years, she went canoeing with a group of seniors, and also took an adventurous holiday in Spain. Unfortunately, during the canoeing trip she fell into the water and was hospitalized for a short time and during her excursion to Spain managed to break her arm. Her family never knew what to expect! However, these mishaps did not deter Winnifred from enjoying her life. Her love of life has been and still is expressed in many ways with her devotion to her family, her hospitality, her kindness and compassion for those less fortunate, her courage in adversity, her determination and her sense of humor and adventure.
Her hobbies include cooking, travelling, gardening, handicrafts, sewing, singing and writing. She discovered her interest in creative writing while attending the University of Alberta's Spring Session for seniors. This reflected her belief in further education. Her writings reflect her life experiences and many travels to various parts of the world.
Several of her stories and poems have received awards. She has had writings published in newspapers including Grainews, Western Producer, Edmonton Journal, and The Wetaskiwin Times.
"I learned respect for others, and a sense of duty and responsibility and to do the best I could… family was important."
"She was and is a disciplinarian, but there was also time for fun along the way."
"I always knew you were my protector and friend."
Stories of Winnifred from daughter, Gwen Simpson
"One of the days I'll always remember was the day She, I (Gwen), and Eric climbed Sulfur Mountain in Banff.
Once during a week's stay in Banff, after having walked all about town, we decided it was time for an adventure. "Could we climb Sulfur Mountain, and would you come, too?" "Yes," she thought, "we could do that." A day was chosen. Dad dropped us off at the trailhead and continued on to his course at the School of Fine Arts.
So, the three of us, Mom, Eric and I, began our hike up through the trees, with the usual switchbacks and steep paths. When we finally broke the treeline and could see the top, we encountered a herd of mountain sheep. Eric and I were somewhat timid about this, but Mom said: "Oh, I think if we just pass on by and don't bother them, they won't bother us," and so we did just that.
Once at the top, we admired the view and stayed awhile to enjoy our accomplishment. This is my mother, if it could be done, it would be done!"
"When I was in my teens, the highlight of many weeks was the dance on Friday night. Something new to wear was the icing on the cake. Many times the last stitches were in and I was out the door feeling quite grand."
"Her patience with me and my ideas and her willingness to please will always be among my fondest memories. I am proud to say that I graduated from high school, and was married in gowns that she made for me. "
"As I look back, I can only hope that she knows that I appreciated her understanding of me."
"I guess she taught me to be reliable, to do my fair share of work, to be courteous to all I meet and to be honest. Make no mistake, she was and is a disciplinarian, but there was also time for fun along the way."
"In my mother's house there was always room for one more. She would assess a situation and decide how she could contribute. From this we learned to try to do the right thing, patience, and kindness to others. Her standards were high and so we learned to work hard. She believes in the power of forgiveness and a willingness to listen to, and help, those who are down on their luck. "
"Her ability to laugh at herself and her determination are remarkable. Always Mrs. Peterson to those who do not know her will, she shows her sense of dignity and pride in self. This is a lady who has a deep sense of adventure, a love of learning, she does not suffer fools easily, and has a keen sense of human nature."
Memories of Childhood by daughter, Rita Alfrey
"I thank my mother for the influence she had on my life. From her I learned respect for others (especially my elders), a sense of duty and responsibility and to do the best I could. I thank her also for her guidance and direction. She helped me with the "big decisions" of growing up, introduced me to the church and encouraged education. I had a rewarding career. She taught me to be neat and clean and to put my best foot forward. I appreciate all the holidays and adventures I had as a child. Family was important. Also the homemaking skills I learned from her."
"When I was about 4 years of age my mother decided to stop me from sucking my thumb. She sat me down on her knee and told me how that I would look if I continued to do so. This had an impact. I remember feeling my nose and teeth for years later to see if I was deformed. I stopped sucking my thumb."
- Rita, Daughter
Letter of Appreciation by son, Eric Peterson
Throughout the various stages of my life, through childhood right through to the present, one feeling about my relationship with you mother recurs despite all the bumps in the road. All the hard times and the good times you went through raising us, I always knew that you were my protector and friend. Perhaps it's for others to judge how well I learned my lessons, but I thank your for the example you set.
Showing the values of being kind and compassionate to others (particularly those less fortunate), being hospitable (your door was always open), your courage in the face of adversity, your adventurous spirit and your ability to greet life with a sense of humour, that I hope you never lose. Like all people, you have your faults but the pluses far outweigh the negative and you will always be my pal.
- Research and Writing: Janis Ruitenbeck
- Contributors: Rita Alfrey, Eric Peterson and Gwen Simpson
- Curator: Janis Ruitenbeck