Life and Work
Emeline was the youngest member of her family and the only sibling to be born in Wetaskiwin. Her parents, Ameen and Halabea, came to Canada in 1899 from Lebanon. They initially settled in Mont-Joli, Quebec but in 1912 moved first to Red Deer and by the time Emeline was born on September 11, 1913, they had settled in Wetaskiwin.
Ameen Aboussafy was one of Wetaskiwin’s pioneer merchants and set up a general store with his brother-in-law Sam Murray. In the 1920’s, the store became Aboussafy & Sons and the family business ventures expanded within Wetaskiwin and to Gwynne.
Emeline had six older brothers who were involved in the business or were notable businessmen in their own right. Frank and Abe, the oldest and youngest both left Wetaskiwin to pursue business ventures elsewhere. Elie and Mike were involved with the family business and Joe became an owner and manager of a store on the east side of the tracks. George was involved with the family business for some time but eventually became a car salesman in Wetaskiwin.
Having six older brothers was both a blessing and a misfortune. The brothers looked after her needs and were good to her. George for instance would ensure that she had the best car and knew when it was time for a new one. However, having six big brothers meant that her activities were constantly monitored. Her freedom was definitely limited. Emeline helped her mother provide scheduled and unscheduled meals for the boys. She never complained. Her only lament was that her brothers had curly or at least wavy hair and hers was straight.
Emeline began her long career at Aboussafy and Sons as a part-time employee while she was still in school. After high school, she went to Business College in Edmonton and took bookkeeping, shorthand and typing. When Emeline completed Business College, she began working full time in the family business.
For the next three decades, Emeline along side other family members worked at Aboussafy & Sons. She got to know the community and the community got to know her. She worked every day except Sundays and Wednesday afternoons. Initially, Emeline began working in the Ladies Wear Department and as that was phased out, worked in the dry goods. During her many years at the store, she was also involved with the bookkeeping duties. Emeline learned from her father to give excellent service. During the war years, nylons were scarce. When a shipment arrived, she was sure to call customers who were anxiously awaiting their arrival. Customers remember Emeline as quiet, hard working, friendly and extremely helpful because she knew the stock so well. The store burned down on February 15, 1967, thus ending an era and leaving Emeline and other staff members without employment.
Emeline was not unemployed for long. In September of 1967, she became the secretary of the Ermineskin Elementary and Junior High School. She carried on those duties efficiently, independently and respectfully but could be forthright if needed. During her years in Hobbema she got to know the students and many of their family members. Emeline retired in 1978 after several years at the school.
Although Emeline never married she had a busy life outside work. As her nieces and nephews were growing up, she was a devoted aunt. Every Sunday afternoon she would drive to Edmonton to visit her nieces and nephew. Aunt Emeline was the first family member to have a television set which needless to say attracted younger family members to her home. Knitting became a great pastime and nieces and nephews were the recipients of baby outfits. The family cottage at Pigeon Lake was a gathering place and Emeline helped her mother prepare food for everyone. She was an avid card player and enjoyed playing in a bridge club. Today Emeline still enjoys crib with friends and family members. Travelling overseas and road trips with family were other activities Emeline took delight in. Family was very important to Emeline and she devoted much of her time to family.
In her earlier years, Emeline took dance classes with Mrs. Enman. She was part of a dance entourage, which in 1933 provided the novelty entertainment in the opening night of the Edmonton Spring Show. The dance troupe also provided entertainment at various events in Wetaskiwin. Emeline also enjoyed curling and golfing.
Emeline has always been faithful to the church and attended mass daily until her health no longer permitted it. After she retired from the school in Hobbema, Emeline volunteered her time and energy as secretary-treasurer at the Sacred Heart Church which she continued to do until the mid-1990’s. It was while serving in this capacity that Emeline, in her late 70’s, learned to use the computer.
Emeline was a stylish dresser and was a lady through and through with a smile that could brighten the day. She is still a well-known figure around the City of Wetaskiwin. The family believed that everyone in the community was important to them. Emeline’s family and friends concur that she is content and accepting of her life and has felt fulfilled. A friend of Emeline stated that the way she lived her life was, To Thine Own Self Be True.
Compiled by: Viki Ruben
Sources: Elaine Brackenbury, Louise Aboussafy, Lynn Boulton, Ellen Brackenbury, Birdie Walker, Art Tetrault, Maxine Claybourne, Joey Jackson, Emeline Aboussafy, Jack Aboussafy