Dora Staack Ballhorn




Life and Work

Dora Staack was born May 21, 1892 at Dysart, Iowa. At eight years of age she moved with her parents and two sisters to Lacombe, Alberta. Here she completed her schooling and began her job as a dental assistant. Dora's family was great friends with the Ballhorn family in Iowa and around 1910 the Ballhorn family relocated to Wetaskiwin. The families were reunited and after some courting time their son Roy asked for Dora's hand in marriage. They were wed on March 25, 1918. Dora and Roy then set up their homestead in the Angus Ridge district.

Soon after their marriage Dora and Roy decided to raise purebred Black Angus cattle. They became widely known for raising the very best in this breed and became very active in the Angus Breeders Association. When husband Roy was Director of the Edmonton Exhibition, Dora was active in all its affairs, entering into Klondike days every year with great enthusiasm in fashionable Klondike regalia.

Dora's talents as a homemaker and gardener soon made "Woodlawn" (farm name) a show place. Dora delighted in flowers and gardens. She was truly a green thumb. Her life was filled with many community projects: teaching Sunday school, helping to build and maintain the Angus Ridge Hall and assisting those in need. Dora loved to bake pies. Whenever someone was ill or in need, she would give them one of her pies.

The Tweedsmuir competition sponsored by the Federated Women's Institutes of Canada was the incentive for the recording of community history. One of Dora's greatest prides was the winning of this competition with the Angus Ridge History Book. Dora along with Freda Nelles organized the Angus Women's Institute members to assist in putting together the community's history. Out of this came our local history book "Pioneer Pathways." She was also instrumental in helping other communities research and compile their local histories.

The Master Farm Family Award was presented to Dora and Roy. Dora took a very active part in working towards this award. The Master Farm Family program was initiated in Alberta on February 17, 1949. It was a policy of the Alberta Government which seeks to select and honor farm families who have made an outstanding success of farming, homemaking and citizenship. The government has now discontinued these awards. In 1960, after 35 years of membership in the Angus Ridge Women's Institute and having served in many positions, Dora received a Life membership.

Dora was a gracious and vivacious woman who treasured her friends and family. This was evident throughout her life. In addition to her busy farm life, she found time to indulge in writing short stories, gardening and entertaining people from all walks of life. Her gift for writing was instrumental in the compilation of the Angus Ridge History Book, for which the Angus Ridge Institute won the prestigious Tweedsmuir Competition, a Canada-wide competition open to all Canadian institutes.

Dora was very interested in history and kept many scrapbooks with clippings from the community. She also wrote many articles for local newspapers. She loved to write and read stories and her sense of humor is evident in her scrapbooks and writings. She was known for her many talents from hooked rugs, crocheted tablecloths to lovely quilts. She continued with these handicrafts until sometime in her 80's. She was a devoted member of the Order of the Eastern Star, became Worthy Matron in 1936 and received her Life Membership in 1971. She was also Grand Representative from Alberta to Indiana in 1937 and to Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island in 1967.

Scrapbooks can tell a wonderful story of events in one's life. While reading through Dora's scrapbooks her story unfolds. Along with community history she kept scrapbooks on her family, with pictures of her daughter Roma and son-in-law, Harold and all their achievements, to letters from her granddaughters Jody and Lynne. She had her dream fulfilled when she became a great grandmother to Candice, Kevin, Arron, Steven and Daniel. Dora treasured her friends and she had many. She was always the life of the party with her stories and enthusiastic personality. She was a happy, industrious, and ambitious woman who loved her home, family and friends.

Dora passed away at the age of 93, September 21,1985.


"To have known her has been a blessing in my life"
- Rev. Harry Steele

"The warmth of her greeting to me and to all will never be forgotten. She was, and is, and inspiration to all."
- Friend, Mattie McCullough

Memories of Dora Ballhorn by Jody Hundeby, granddaughter
Lynne and I always called our grandparents "Wetaskiwin Grandpa and Grandma" as opposed to our Camrose grandparents. We spent a fair bit of time at their home as we grew up.

Grandma loved gardening both inside and out. I remember in particular all the pink petunias she'd have each year by her front door and beside the sidewalk. Also, in back of the house she had a good garden, for in town, and always had lots of produce from it. One year she planted a spruce tree by that garden, and a few years later we kept watch over a robin's nest built low in the tree, waiting for the eggs to hatch. Inside, Grandma had a hoya shrub growing back and forth across the whole south end of the living room. She was always excited to show us the fragrant blossoms it produced each year. Also, she grew many different colours of beautiful violets. Grandma liked collecting things. One of her biggest collections was of rocks. She had one room in the basement quite full of them and after each trip, would have a few more to add. That love passed down to Mom and then to Lynne and I, and now our children are carrying home special finds from our travels. In their collections, you will find some of Grandma's original rocks.

At Christmas we'd always have at least one big meal at Grandma and Grandpa's. It would always start out with everyone having a paper cracker. We'd have to get someone to help us snap it and then we'd have to wear the silly hats through the whole meal. It was always a tradition to have some of the same foods at this meal every year. We either had duck or a goose, which Grandpa had shot, and which Grandma would stuff with an apple and raisin dressing. There would be a selection of other foods - one of which would be crabapple pickles, and then the meal would end with a steamed cranberry pudding. These foods are a tradition that we still keep over Christmas. Along with this, Mom has added rice with fruit salad and candied yams.

As I have written this, it has become quite obvious to me that though we take much of our past for granted, we have been moulded and are still being affected by those past generations.

How My Mother Influenced Me by Roma Simonsen
As a child she taught me to be curious and interested in and about things in nature, the birds, flowers and the planting of trees for beauty and shelter. She taught me by example, to be confident in myself and to accept responsibility in accepting positions in various associations.

She taught me that education was important and encouraged me to continue on to university. She encouraged frugality, to a degree. My home was always a place where I could find a warm welcome, and encouragement after having been away, sometimes many months. She taught me to value and preserve our heritage. She was a great collector. I guess she influenced me into being the person I am today.


Research and Writing: Roma Simonson and Janis Ruitenbeck
Contributors: Roma Simonson and Beryl Ballhorn
Curator: Janis Ruitenbeck


Eulogy for Dora by Beryl Ballhorn
Scrapbooks can tell a wonderful story of events in one's life. As I have read through Dora's scrapbooks a story unfolds.

There is a picture of their beautiful home and yard which Dora with her love of plants and trees, combined with the hard work, turned into a showplace.

Many pictures of the development through the years of their celebrated Angus cattle and behind the pictures a story of hospitality and graciousness that Dora extended to many guests in their home from all parts of Canada and the United States, who came to buy their prized stock.

A lady whose talents as a homemaker showed in the modern farm home she loved and in the handiwork of rugs and quilts.

Dora entered into community activities with great enthusiasm and as a member and later a Life Member of the Angus Ridge Women's Institute, she held many of the executive offices.

Her greatest pride was the completion of the Angus Ridge History Book that won the Tweedsmuir Competition in the Federated Women's Institutes competition.

She loved the Order of the Eastern Star and she was a devoted member. She was Worthy Matron in 1936 and received a Life Membership in 1971. She was also Grand Representative from Alberta to Indiana in 1937 and to Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island in 1967.

I often hear her tell of the wonderful times she and Roy had during the years with many good and dear friends of the Order.

Letters lovingly saved from her granddaughters, Jody and Lynne, are pasted in her books as well as clippings of Roma and Harold and their achievements, of which Dora was so proud; the scrapbook tells the story of her pride and love of her family.

Dora treasured her friends and she had many. Her home was always open to anyone for a visit and a "bit of lunch."

I have enjoyed many times having tea with her and admiring the beautiful violets she grew. I have often told her - "with the love and care you give them, they wouldn't dare not grow."

Being a great grandmother fulfilled a dream for her and she loved having Jody and Don bring Candice, Kevin and Arron to see her.

I think one of the hardest things Dora had to face was not being able to see well enough to get around and be independent.

Those scrapbooks are a chronicle of a happy, busy, industrious and ambitious woman, who dearly loved her home and family.

Thank you Dora for being you.