Life and Work
Elsie Nelson taught school at Arbutus for a year before working at the weather station at Rocky Mountain House.
Working with the Health Unit and the Victorian Order of Nurses from Innisfail for many years, Elsie worked with those who were ill and dying.
Starting as a councillor, she eventually became Bowden's first woman mayor, she greeted Rick Hansen on his Man in Motion tour and carried the Olympic torch in its relay to the Calgary Winter Olympics in 1988.
Elsie likes to travel. When she travelled to Australia, a civic reception was held in her honour as a visiting mayor. Elsie addressed the gathering on municipal procedures in Canada regarding land fills, sludge and pollution. She also visited the Vatican where she listened to Pope John Paul II speak. Elsie shook his hand and snapped his picture.
She was involved in many organizations such as Eastern Star, the United Church Women’s Group, the Historical Society, the Royal Canadian Legion Women’s Auxilliary, and the Senior Citizens' Group. She writes for the local newspaper.
Memories by Audrey Smith
Elsie is a lady who makes a difference in our world. She has always been, and remains, very active in the Bowden Community. Elsie is involved in many organizations among which are Eastern Star, the United Church Women's Group, the Historical Society, the Royal Canadian Legion Women's Auxiliary, and the Senior Citizens' Group. In each of the organizations of which she is a member she is and has been a dedicated worker serving in any capacity where help is needed from member in general, volunteering on committees, through all of the officer chairs. In each undertaking, Elsie truly gives of herself, including her time, her understanding of human nature, her exceptional sense of problem solving, her organizational skills, her sense of humour, her unending supply of original ideas, her labour and her love.
Elsie has always had an open mind and been willing to learn from life's experiences. She and her husband raised two successful children, and were actively involved in any club, school, or church function which raising children entailed. When Elsie lost her husband, shortly after his retirement, she was able to turn her grief into a positive project, becoming a bereavement councillor for others. She is highly in demand to assist elderly friends, neighbors, and even strangers through very difficult and trying times in their lives. As a senior citizen herself, Elsie continues to volunteer at extended care facilities, doing what she can to ease the burdens of others.
Elsie Nelson maintains her interest in young people by staying somewhat involved with the local school. Over the years, she has served as a volunteer "grandparent" in the Grandparent Buddy Program, taken trays of poppies through the classrooms for Remembrance Day and taken part in the Remembrance Day Service, the various awards at the awards assemblies, and has visited as "guest speaker" in her official role as the first woman mayor in Bowden, and as a world traveller.
Along with all of her other gifts, Elsie is good with words and often submits columns to the local newspaper. She is the person called upon, by the many organizations she either "chairs" or attends, to report to the public the "news" of the group. She has been recognized officially in many capacities including that of Volunteer of the Year.
There is so much that is good to say about Elsie Nelson that it is difficult to mention everything and still be fairly brief. Her days are filled with 'doing for others' . She seems to embody the "spirit of giving" and is a true model of what might be perceived as a "Good Samaritan". Her volunteer support of the Community has been and remains extensive. She is truly a "Woman of Aspenland" deserving of this recognition.
I Know Elsie Nelson by Pat Bonazew
I moved to Bowden on the eve of a municipal election; the one that saw Elsie Nelson officially retire from politics. As the local newspaper editor, I immediately became acquainted with the name, Elsie Nelson. Whether I was researching the past for a historical detail in a book or past issue, that name would inevitably show up. So many times interviewing others, they'd say, "Elsie Nelson would know; she was there; she was instrumental in getting that done; ask Elsie."
Needless to say it was not long before I met the local, living legend herself. What a fantastic find! Not just historically or as a public figure, I met and have come to know the true lady who transverses groups and organizations of all interests and ages.
We related as young women travelling unfamiliar territory as professionals; as wives and mothers with deep convictions and values; as concerned, caring and active members of local groups and worthwhile causes. When it came time for me to enter the political arena, Elsie was a profound influence in the right direction.
She not only recognized an ability in me, she encouraged it and shared her thoughts, experiences and the wealth of detail she possessed. This was not just an introduction to government issues. This woman possesses and practices a deep perception of humanity and universal caring for every living thing on Earth. She connects to each with warmth and sincerity and has a marvelous ability to explain and illustrate that keeps a listener spell bound. Her humour is kind and her words flow gently over her audience (or reader if she is writing) like warm spring rain, refreshing and revitalizing one to do more and better for just having had her touch, her inspiration.
Is Elsie Nelson my mentor? Yes she is. At 42 years old, I often tell people that I want to grow up to be just like her. When we met, we were drawn together and a bond was forged. When I am her age, I sincerely hope I can look back on my life and say I have lived it with the zest, fortitude, grace, understanding, human kindness and dignity that Elsie has. I hope, too, that I will remember to make a special occasion out of every encounter with all I meet so they can feel as special as Elsie has made so many of us feel in her presence.
From high government dignitaries and officials, to school students at the museum, from neighbours to peers to casual acquaintances - Elsie is always the same. Her open, all encompassing love of life and people just reaches right out and embraces all in her very special spirit of compassion.
I am reminded of a story where a person was to meet the Queen and was advised to use their very best manners. It could have been Elsie who replied, "I only have one set of manners and I use it every day with everyone I meet."
In her case, Elsie has only one character - the one she is and it is the very best. What a blessing she is - no matter where, when or with who - she is Elsie Nelson.
Thank you for this opportunity to share some of her with you