Blanche (Brown) Recknagle
Life and Work
Blanche Brown was born in Bradwardine, Manitoba on May 27, 1905. She was the eldest child of Theresa Maud Green and Robert Alien Brown. From Manitoba the family moved to Ontario and then back out west to Daysland, Alberta. Her father was convinced by his brother, Harry, to make this move and become a farmer. When her mother became ill they left Daysland and moved back east. Her mother passed away at the age of thirty, leaving Blanche at the age of 5 and her brother at the age of 3 years. After her mother's passing the family moved back out west to Daysland where Blanche continued her education. Blanche then moved to Edmonton to train as a nurse at the Royal Alexandra Hospital.
In 1927, Blanche came to Wetaskiwin and joined the nursing staff at the Wetaskiwin Hospital (the Wales hotel) at 4820 - 50 st. Here she became good friends with Florence Recknagle. Through this friendship, Blanche met and married Walter Recknagle, on June 16, 1930. Together, they had three children, Maurice, Margaret and Donald. Blanche and Walter had a wonderful and happy life together. In 1982 Walter became very ill and Blanche looked after him in their home for as long as she was capable. Walter passed away December 14, 1984. After being together for almost 55 years it was quite an adjustment for Blanche to live alone.
Blanche's involvement in the community seemed endless. As an avid reader she joined the Wetaskiwin Library in 1927 (the year it opened) and was given a Life Membership for her continued support. She also served as president of the Angus Ridge Women's Institute, which she joined in 1950. As a member, she was also a convention delegate and prior to 1967 was a constituency convener. For a number of years, Blanche was the Health and Welfare Convener and often brought in speakers on relevant health issues.
In Red Cross work, Blanche's activities have been numerous. She served on the executive for more that 40 years, was a delegate to Red Cross conventions, did considerable knitting and packaging and was always on hand at the Blood Donor Clinics. Blanche was always willing to do more than her share of work. She continued, as long as her health permitted, to canvas for the Annual Red Cross Campaign. In May 1999, she became a member of the Order of the Red Cross, the highest award given out by the Canadian Red Cross Society for 'exceptional dedication and outstanding service.
Blanche took an active interest in church work as well and for many years was a member of First United Church. She was a faithful member of the choir for over 25 years. She served as president and secretary at various times for the Womens' Association and as a group leader for many years. In 1953, she was president of the Red Deer Presbytery Women's Association. As a member of the executive for the first Womens' Association of Alberta Conference, she traveled to many areas of the province. Blanche served as secretary treasurer of the Wayside Chapel for three years. She always assisted with the annual Tea and Bake Sale.
Some of Blanche's leisure time was spent playing bridge with the local ladies bridge club and later at the seniors' center. She also liked to try and win at bingo.
Blanche has had the pleasure of seeing 3 of her grandchildren marry, and welcomed the addition of 2 great granddaughters, 7 grandsons and a great grandson. At the age of 91 Blanche decided to give up some of her independence and finally relinquished her driver's license. Until that time, she was always giving people rides to their destination.
Throughout her lifetime, she had the obsession to clip interesting bits and pieces seen in magazines, newspapers. Blanche would use one or two of these thoughts or ideas (appropriate to the season or to the theme of the meeting) as part of an opening at one of the Women's Institute meetings or for the devotional at a Wayside Chapel's Womens' meeting.
On January 14, 1999, Blanche left her home on the farm for a new life at the Madyson Manor; a seniors' residence in Wetaskiwin. This was quite a change, leaving a ten-room house to live in one room and with 28 roommates. However, she became reacquainted with some of her old friends including Mary Meraw, Kay Law, Rose Fonteyne, and Mae Astle.
As she did most of her life, Blanche continued to knit for the Red Cross making afghans for cribs. In May 2001, she attended the annual Royal Alexandra alumnae banquet for the nursing graduation class of 1926. This was to commemorate her 75 years as a graduate.
In January 2002, Blanche moved to Unit 33, Long Term Care at the Crossroads Regional Health Authority in Wetaskiwin, where she lived until her death in 2002.
Memories of Grandma Recknagle by Susan Recknagle
When I was a very little girl, I spent a lot of time with Grandma. She made me feel like I was the most special little girl ever. We used to go shopping - the Co-op and Kresge's were my favourites. She might have bought me a little something or not. It wasn't like being spoiled with gifts, because I was spoiled with her love.
As I grew up my visits continued; spring break," teachers' convention, summer vacation and Christmas. Grandma and I did all sorts of things together and I was always excited about our visits. We baked cookies, played cards, went downtown and went to church. We visited her friends, but mostly I remember her friends coming over and endless chats around the kitchen table. Grandma used to share confidences with me, or at least I thought she did. I recall one time where she told me about the trip she and her sister Fern, were making their way to Vancouver Island. The driver and passenger were so warmed by the sun that they both fell asleep, and soon found themselves in a muddy prairie ditch! They were both okay, thank goodness, and Grandma told me that I was the only one who knew and not to mention it to my mom. However, she did have a difficult time explaining why they only made it to Rocky Mountain House from Wetaskiwin on day one of their trip. Grandma knew that it could have been a bad situation. Nevertheless, she saw the humour in it and we smiled and gasped at her good fortune. And of course I promised not to tell!
Letter of Appreciation by Daughter-In-Law, Betty Recknagle
As my mother-in-law, Blanche always treated me as a good friend and as a member of the family. She was always available to lend a hand, whether it was to shell peas or nip beans, or just to keep my dad company while they both worked. She was always there for me when I needed something or just an ear to listen to me. The only time she failed was when she tried many times to teach me to make homemade bread. I guess I wasn't a good student because I never did learn. Maybe it was because she kept coming over and making bread so I didn't have to learn.
My love and appreciation,
To Grandma by Angela
I am the youngest grandchild, and arrived in the Recknagle family December 24, 1974. My first memories include a swing set, horse, and of course every young persons dream, "brown sugar sandwiches." Grandma's house was always a place of coming together. I can remember every Sunday going to visit and most times staying for Sunday dinner and, watching Wonderful World of Disney. My favourite memory is a cliché, but it is definitely Christmas Eve at Grandmas, although it's been years since that tradition has taken place. Driving up to a huge house not quite pitch-black, I could always see the little tree sitting on the desk all lit up. I still remember feeling the excitement and anticipation, knowing the whole family was there with love and traditions. Later years, I would help Grandma with her decorations and I always felt like it was my and Grandma's day; even though I heard all the stories of the passed on family decorations, I never tired as they always seemed to take me back to those special Christmas Eves. Now Grandma has the tiniest of tiny trees and only a few decorations and I have some of those other family decorations that I now put out in my house and always get a special feeling when I see them. I guess what my Grandma was trying to do worked. I have a strong sense of family and know the importance of it and the traditions that come with it. Although maybe she doesn't know, but she has deeply implanted that in me, which will enable me to enrich that in her great grandchildren.
- Research and Writing: Janis Ruitenbeck
- Contributors: Margaret Williamson, Don and Betty Recknagle, Maurice and Jackie Recknagle
- Curator: Janis Ruitenbeck