Molly ( Henderson) Tofte
Life and Work
When Molly Tofte taught in her old classroom at King Edward School, it marked an auspicious return. There she had passed Grade 7, her third time through.
Years earlier, Molly came with her family from Wisconsin to the Duhamel district, in 1913. Coming from south of the border, the regulations required her to repeat the school year.
But in her second year of Grade 7, Molly's teacher failed to cover the curriculum. The entire class was held back and Molly faced Grade 7 for the third time. She vowed she would have a classroom of her own one day and she would be the teacher, a good one.
Within 5 years Molly completed Normal School at Camrose and began teaching. Some of the schools were: Meeting Creek, Bawlf, Bashaw, and Wang. She moved to Wetaskiwin where she taught at Alexandra School and later became the principal of King Edward Junior High. Her colleagues said she bloomed when she entered her classroom. During her teaching career in Wetaskiwin, she owned a new 1929 Whippet, a small yet swift car. She took girlfriends with her on several trips to Banff and even over the Rockies to attend summer teaching seminars in Victoria. B.C. Few men were brave enough for a journey such as that in those days.
Later she became engaged to Harold Tofte continuing to teach until their marriage on July 7, 1934. At that time married women could not teach school ending Molly’s career for a few years.
After raising three daughters with her husband Harold Tofte, she returned to the classroom at Lakedell School, teaching until her retirement in 1968. Sadly, Harold Tofte passed away on June 24, 1966 while attending to his cattle. Molly continued her interest in students in retirement; she tutored anyone who required it.
She loved to travel and those who were privileged to travel with her found her an interesting and enthusiastic companion. She returned to her birthplace of Merrill, Wisconsin in 1977 and was thrilled to see the beloved maple trees she remembered from her childhood.
The family remember her fondly as a wonderful, generous and gracious lady who was an inspiration to each member to strive for success in whatever field they chose. "We were all proud of her especially when we met and still meet former pupils who spoke well of her" Molly Tofte was nearly 81 yrs old when she passed away on September 20, 1980.
A Story for graduation by Molly Tofte for her grandson Randy Zeluf
Molly briefly wrote the following story for her oldest grandson, Randy Zeluf, and enclosed it in his Grade 12 graduation card in 1977.
In the tall timbers near Merrill, Wisconsin I first saw the light of day. One of the first bits of advice I remember from my soldierly father was, "Stand tall. Never slump." I did my best to do his bidding with remarkable results. Elementary education was received in a Wisconsin rural school. Junior and senior high school was acquired in Wetaskiwin. Camrose Normal School did its best to transform me into a teacher.
My first school was in the Gladstone school district near Camrose. I began with 13 pupils which soon grew to 29. The next year, I moved closer to my home near Wetaskiwin where I taught for two years at the Wang School. There my enrolment was near 30 and soon grew to 54. My next move was from the frying pan into the fire teaching at the Shultz School near Bashaw. This was my next effort where the enrolment varied between 50 and 60 pupils. Five busy, happy years were spent in this district.
The fall of 1928 found me teaching 28 girls in the Alexandra School in Wetaskiwin. During the next summer, while attending summer school in Victoria, B.C., I was appointed principal of King Edward school. There I remained until my marriage in 1934. Not until 11 years later did I return to teaching. I spent one year teaching at the Victory School south of Westerose.
The fall of 1953 found me back in Wetaskiwin, teaching Grades 4 and 5 at King Edward School. In 1954 my class was moved into my old room at King Edward, where I had taught Grade 7 over 20 years previously. In this same room I had spent one year as a Grade 7 pupil. I finished my teaching career at Lakedell school.
What is my philosophy? I hardly know but the following poem has often given me a lift:
Take time for the pleasure of living,
Take time to be friendly and true,
Be more than a maker of money,
Grow richer in heart and in mind:
Be a glorious comrade and neighbour,
Know the meaning of laughter and tears:
Live bravely, and gladly, and fully,
And you will not have wasted the years.
Letter of Appreciation from Marjorie Bowker
I recall studying the Canadian Constitutional Act of 1791 in Molly Henderson's Grade 8 class at Alexandra School.
She told us to review it. I memorized it. Miss Henderson said to me, "Marjorie, you should be a lawyer," a then-unheard-of suggestion for a small-town girl like myself.
I was an average student up to that time, but I have often thought that she planted the seed for my work as a judge.
- Marjorie Montgomery Bowker
- Information supplied by; Jennie Belle Hougestol, Mary Ann Zeluf and Lorna May Durstling.
- Curator: Harriet Liddle