Alma Marie Jerstad Braa
Life and Work
On July 14, 1898 Alma Marie was born in Glenham, South Dakota. Her parents were Abraham and Marianne Jerstad. She had four sisters, Sina, Betsy, Ida, Clara and one brother, Oscar. In 1903, at the age of five, Alma, together with the rest of the family, moved from South Dakota for the homestead in Alberta near Donalda.
They first arrived by train in Wetaskiwin and had to wait several hours before beginning on the next part of the journey. Alma began exploring and got her foot caught in the rails and mother had to rush to get her off the tracks before another train arrived. They continued their trip across the country by covered wagon, until they arrived at Nils Eiklands where they stayed for three weeks. Here all the girls except Betsy got the measles.
While their house was being built the family lived in a tent. Even a hen shared the tent. Alma and her sisters were always told not to disturb the hen, who was sitting on eggs at the foot of their bed.
Alma began school at Norbo, the first school in the community. Later, Glen Park became the home school. She attended Bethany Church and Sunday school, and was confirmed by Pastor Klyve. She was very active in church, Sunday school and Pegge Forening. Pegge Forening is the Norwegian name for a girl's organization.
Alma's first job was working for a family in Red Willow. However, it was in Bawlf that she first started caring for the elderly. She remained working at the Bethany Sunset Home for approximately three years. The experience she gained here assisted her in her later years.
On August 14, 1927, she married Rudolph Braa, a Lutheran minister and widower who had one son, Raymond. By this marriage another son, Allen, was born. In 1928 they moved to Port Arthur, now known as Thunder Bay, Ontario, where Rudloph Braa was in charge of the congregation.
In 1930 they moved to Claresholm. There Adella was born. During the "dirty thirties" the family lived in Bawlf, Donalda and Camrose at various times.
In 1939 they moved to Wetaskiwin to open the private Eventide Home, renting the building from the city. During the war and until 1945 their son Raymond served in the navy and son, Allen worked after school at McLeods after school. Rudloph Braa passed away with a heart attack in 1947.
Alma and the children continued to run the home. However, in 1960, Alma decided to make a move. By this time the government was building several homes throughout the Province. Peace Hills Foundation was built in Wetaskiwin and was in need of a Matron. Alma sold her belongings, closed the Eventide Home, and together with her "old folk family," moved into the Peace Hills Home to become the first Matron. She had the honour of cutting the ribbon on opening day.
After having been Matron at the Peace Hills Home for eight years, Alma and Sister Minnie Carlson were named "Citizens of the Year". The Wetaskiwin Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture gave them peace pipe plaque awards.
After her retirement, she led a new life of activity in her own home and church. She held office in the L.C.W., sang in the choir and visited the sick. She also made many quilts for her family, the L.C.W. and for others to purchase.
Alma had many friends in for meals, morning or afternoon coffee, and she always took great pride in her garden. In spite of her busy life. Alma managed to travel to such places as South Dakota, Oregon, Montreal. Norway, Hawaii, Minnesota and Wisconsin. On some of these trips she rekindled her relationship with family and friends.
Alma passed away December 28, 1986 at 88 years, in Camrose Bethany Auxiliary Hospital.
Life and Times of Alma Braa
As well as being a matron she, in effect, acted as a nurse. Able to detect symptoms, a certain local doctor recognized her skills at patient care and taught her how to use a syringe. This was only for seniors in her care requiring a previously prescribed medication. That tended to save him numerous trips to the care centre. Alma was also very adapted to using home remedies learned at home when doctors and hospitals were miles away. In the days before penicillin and other antibiotics, for a fever, a mustard plaster treatment was given. Encased in a cloth laid on one's chest, it was one treatment we tried to avoid.
A few short years before her retirement, she had saved enough money to purchase a four-room, two-bedroom house at 4520 - 53rd Street, in Wetaskiwin. Then, she had a self-contained one-bedroom suite developed in the basement, which would augment her pension income, when she retired. At the age of 70, most widowed women would have moved into an apartment.
Of her 17 years in retirement about 11 were spent in Wetaskiwin and in relatively good health. She was active in church organizations and took her turn preparing the church building for Sunday services. July was the anniversary month. She and two siblings had birthdays that month so there was usually a celebration some place in Alberta or British Columbia. She was firm believer in keeping in touch with relatives of her late husband. Most lived in the Dakotas or Minnesota where she made more than one visit. On two occasions, there were holiday visits to Hawaii, which, in years before, would have only been dream vacations.
A milestone in one's life is to celebrate an 80th birthday, which she did in 1978. The reception was held at the Legion Hall with some 115 guests in attendance. By this time there were more pills to take for heart and blood pressure problems. Daughter, Adella had to make frequent trips from Camrose, so it was decided that Alma would take an apartment in Camrose.
There for about three years life went on as normal, Alma prepared her own meals, did the laundry and cleaning. Her hands were seldom idle and one project was making patchwork quilt blankets for relief organizations. On more than one occasion, she was up before dawn stitching away on the frame rig that was set up in the living room.
We do not have the exact date but in the early months of 1984, she tripped while crossing a street and broke an arm. That unfortunate first-time event was to trigger another move. While in the hospital she became very adamant that her days of living alone were over. In those years, as now, there was a shortage of lodging facilities in Camrose for seniors, so for a few weeks Alma stayed with the Rosland Family. In due course, a bed was found at the Bethany Nursing Home. Life to some degree had come full circle. This was the same institution where some 60 years earlier, albeit 20 miles (32.2 kilometres) to the east, she began to learn about caregiving to the elderly.
In the last few months of 1986, her body strength began to weaken and she was moved into the auxiliary hospital section of Bethany. The last few days were to be in St. Mary's Hospital. There during the night of December 28 life ebbed away. Her life span was 88 years, 5 months and 15 days.
Most Used Expression - "Uff Da" (very much a Scandinavian expression) A booklet published lists a multitude of definitions. Alma tended to use this when things went a little bit wrong, as when she spilled something or the baking turned out a little burned.
Influence on My Life - To recognize the difference between right and wrong, not to step over the line.