Virginia (Key) Sherburne




Life and Work

Virginia Key was born in Lethbridge, Alberta on May 23rd, 1923. Her father George had come to Alberta from Missouri and her mother Edith came north from Wisconsin with her family. George and Edith both settled in Lethbridge and met at work, soon marrying and starting a family. After the stock market crash of 1929, a family friend asked the Key family to take over his farm in Vauxhall, Alberta. George and Edith moved their family to Vauxhall, where their children were raised and attended school. Virginia remembers rushing home to help her father on the farm each day after school. Her older brother Harry joined the army when World War II broke out, so Virginia and her younger brother Bill had more chores and responsibilities on the farm.

As a girl, Virginia enjoyed school and excelled in every grade. She graduated from Vauxhall School in July of 1943 and then went to Normal School in Calgary for three months before obtaining her first teaching job in October of the same year. At this time, teachers were scarce, and Virginia had always wanted to be a teacher, so she pursued this career eagerly. Her first position was at Sherburne School near Grassy Lake, Alberta. This is where Virginia met her future husband, Charles Sherburne. The couple married in Edmonton on August 17th, 1945 and then moved to Hoadley, where Charles’ parents lived.

After her marriage, Virginia’s first teaching job was at Spring Dale, Alberta. During this time, she had her first child, Kathy, who was born on July 17th, 1946. Kathy’s sister Arlene was born on August 2nd, 1947, followed by Gerry on August 12th, 1948. Virginia had all three of her children close together, so that she would be able to return to teaching as soon as possible. Virginia was back in the classroom just one month after Gerry’s birth, taking a job for September of 1948 at Pendryl School. When she returned to teaching, Virginia hired someone from the community to look after her children until they were old enough to attend school.
Virginia held teaching positions at Pendryl, Hoadley, and Winfield Schools through the course of her career. She invested a great deal of time and effort into each of her students, in addition to all the things that she was involved in outside of the schoolroom. She taught full-time for thirty five years and was also involved in the Alberta Teacher’s Association during this time. In 1973 Virginia and her family moved to Winfield, consequently the Winfield School acknowledged Virginia’s extraordinary teaching career when an anonymous donor gave some money to the school. They created the Virginia Sherburne Award in 2001for a “grade six role model”, given annually to a deserving student in sixth grade.

All three of Virginia’s children, Kathy, Arlene and Gerry, agree that Virginia is a very good mother. She knit sweaters and made clothing for her children, as well as baking from scratch every week and keeping a very tidy home. Virginia was the disciplinarian in the house, but was always fair and listened to her children’s concerns. Her daughter Kathy says “She always valued our opinion; she always made us think for ourselves”. Virginia and her husband Charles had a well-balanced partnership while they raised their children: she taught full time, while he worked on the farm. The couple cooperated to achieve everyday things such as cooking dinner and knitting sweaters for the kids. Their daughter Kathy remembers her father as something of a clown, saying that Virginia had a “terrific sense of humour to put up with him”.

Virginia was a dedicated teacher and a devoted mother and wife. In addition to all of this, she was also extremely involved in her community. As a young girl, Virginia admired her mother’s work with the Women’s Institute in Vauxhall. She eventually became involved herself and is a member to this day. She served as Secretary for the Hall Board in Hoadley and the Fire Hall Board in Winfield, even while she was raising her family and teaching full-time. After her retirement from teaching in 1980, Virginia’s involvement in the community increased. After moving to Wetaskiwin in 1984 she began her work with Family and Community Support Services in Wetaskiwin, and was also involved in the Winfield Community Library. Virginia devoted a great deal of time and energy to the Hospital Auxiliary in Wetaskiwin, as well as the Wetaskiwin and District Heritage Museum. She received her Ten-Year Pin for involvement with the museum in 1995. Virginia also volunteered at the Wetaskiwin Library, taking books to Kiwanis Court so that the residents could keep up with their reading without having to make the trip to the library. She was always very humble about her work in the community. Virginia did not get involved because she liked attention or recognition; she is simply a very organized person who enjoys contributing to events and institutions in her area.

An avid reader all her life, Virginia enjoys a good book to this day. She also loves to watch hockey and curling. Virginia and her husband Charles were very social as a couple; her daughter Kathy describes Virginia as someone who “likes a good time, she likes a good party, she likes a good laugh”. Virginia’s children have all married and she is the proud grandmother of six grandchildren and three step-grandchildren, great-grandmother of six and great-great grandmother of one. Her husband Charles passed away in 2000. Virginia now lives in Sunrise Village in Wetaskiwin and enjoys visits from her family and friends.

Compiled in 2009.


Compiled by Keely Cronin

Sources: Virginia Sherburne, Kathy Lund, Arlene Elliot.