REMARKABLE ALBERTANS: WHAT OUR READERS THINK
When it comes to talking about Alberta’s most remarkable citizens, the conversation can be a long one. The province has been, and is, home to thousands of people who have made lasting and/or ongoing contributions. There have been countless innovators, inventors, First Nations trailblazers, multicultural luminaries, business leaders, community activists, philanthropists, athletes, artists and more. So, when Postmedia news organizations in Alberta decided to profile 150 remarkable Albertans to mark Canada’s sesquicentennial, we knew our readers would have many names to add. The original list of the 150 Albertans can be found at calgaryherald.com/150, but what follows are names of some of the people our readers would add to the list.
Buck Shot (Ron Barge): For 30 years, “Buck Shot” was a fixture in Calgary living rooms as kids gathered around the family TV to watch him and Benny the Bear perform songs and skits. Barge, an accomplished musician, came up with the idea for a children’s show while working as a studio manager at local station CFCN. The first show aired on March 13, 1967, and within a week more than 14,000 pieces of fan mail arrived at the station.
Tony Spoletini: Success has followed Spoletini from the football field to the food business. A twotime Vanier Cup champion with the University of Calgary Dinos, he won a Grey Cup with the Edmonton Eskimos before joining his hometown Stampeders. After retiring from football in 1992, he and two cousins opened Spolumbo’s Fine Foods and Deli. A well-known community booster, he has been a leading force in the development of minor football in Calgary, including the development of several field projects.
William Maxwell (Max) Aitken, Lord Beaverbrook; born May 25,
1879; died June 9, 1964: A Calgary high school is named after Lord Beaverbrook, a Canadian-British tycoon who made his first million dollars by age 30. After achieving success in a variety of publishing and political endeavours, he moved to Calgary where he helped run an election campaign for future prime minister R.B. Bennett. Among his many business ventures, he founded the Calgary Power Company Limited, which became TransAlta Corporation.
Raymond (Ray) Thorsteinsson; born Jan. 21, 1921; died April
23, 2012: Thorsteinsson’s work greatly enhanced the world’s knowledge of the Arctic. As a multi-award-winning geologist, he wrote papers, created maps and completed research that provided new understanding of the north. His contributions to the geology of the Proterozoic and Paleozoic rocks was unmatched.
O.B. Lassiter; born Nov. 10, 1885;
died September 1977: Oscar Bruce Lassiter picked peanuts, cotton and watermelons as a field boy in his native North Carolina, setting the stage for his move as an adult to California where he started a farm. But stories of the Canadian west lured him to Alberta, where he bought farmland east of Lethbridge in 1917. He eventually had the largest farm in the province and became an expert in breaking prairie land, turning it into usable farmland. He introduced innovative and environmentally-conscious farming methods, such as strip farming; he brought technologies and the first Caterpillar to Canadian farms; and, he was hired to turn land in the Peace River area into farmland for soldiers returning from war. During the Depression, he and wife Alice — also a remarkable individual — gave food and shelter to countless people in need. Lassiter was also involved in politics, particularly as a campaign speaker for future Premier William Aberhart; and, he created his own oil company. “There’s no way he would say ‘can’t,’” recalls daughter Tobi Hentze. “He always told us ‘ You can do anything you want to do.’”
William Roper Hull; born Dec. 20, 1856 in Somerset, England;
died April 4, 1925: Thousands of children, young adults and their families are the beneficiaries of Hull’s vision and generosity, through the assistance of Hull Services. The communityminded entrepreneur’s journey to Alberta began in 1873, when he and his brother John, both in their late teens, travelled aboard a steamship to Victoria. The two made their way to the B.C. Interior where they worked on an uncle’s ranch and later made several trips across the Rockies to sell horses and cattle in southern Alberta. William and a partner established one of the first largescale cattle and meat-packing operations in the province. He also became a prominent commercial real estate developer, responsible for many landmark buildings, including the Grain Exchange and the Alberta Block in Calgary. But he’s best-known for his philanthropy and dedication to helping disadvantaged children and youth. Following his wife Emmaline’s death in 1953, his $5-million estate was used to launch a home for orphaned children. The agency, now known as Hull Child and Family Services, opened in 1962. A Calgary park and a southwest school are also named in his honour.
Peter Anthony Prince; born 1836 near Trois-Rivieres, Que.; died
1925: After arriving in Calgary from Wisconsin in 1886, Prince managed the Eau Claire and Bow River Lumber Company for 30 years. He was also involved in many other business ventures, including the founding of the Calgary Water Power Company, Alberta Natural Gas and Elec- tric, a Robin Hood flour mill and a meat-packing plant. Prince’s Island Park in downtown Calgary is named for the lumber baron and businessman. Dr. Clara Christie Might; born 1895 in Winchester, Ont.; died 1987: After four years teaching school, Christie studied medicine at the University of Alberta and Montreal McGill. One of the first women in Canada to graduate from the Faculty of Medicine, she returned to Calgary in 1927 to start her own practice. Alberta’s first female obstetrician kept the office open for 27 years. In 1965, she and her husband, lawyer Orrin Might, donated their first home to the Calgary Indian Friendship Centre. In 1981, she established the Nat Christie Foundation — in memory of her brother — which has contributed more than $6 million to city projects. The Orrin & Clara Christie Might Library in Calgary is the largest of its kind in Canada, holding more than 60,000 volumes of Chinese books and videos.
John Jones: A Latvian immigrant who arrived in Alberta at the start of the last century, he walked the 80 kilometres from Edmonton to Lake Isle, where he cleared land by hand to establish a homestead with his wife. “He never sought the limelight and just wanted to have a happy family, and to help others less fortunate than he was,” says his great grandson, Shawn Foran. “As years went on he built a fantastic life for his family and his community.” A First World War veteran, he organized the area’s first elections and served as a district judge, mayor and notary public. Later in life he helped 200 displaced Latvians settle in Alberta following the Second World War and established the Latvian/Canadian Society Imanta to support people of Latvian heritage in the province.
Irene Florence Murdoch: Public outcry that followed a 1973 Supreme Court of Canada decision rejecting Murdoch’s claim for a half interest in the 480-acre family ranch registered to her husband led to substantial changes to matrimonial property laws in Canada, giving husbands and wives equal rights to property acquired during the course of their marriage. Murdoch argued she was entitled to half the property after running the ranch during her 25-year marriage. The court disagreed in a controversial 4-1 decision, finding her contribution did not merit an interest in the land. Women’s groups across the country took up Murdoch’s fight, demanding changes to family laws. In subsequent divorce proceedings, she was awarded a lump-sum payment of $65,000.
Mary Cross Dover; born July 1,
1905; died June 9, 1994: Wellknown for her work during the Second World War, her outstanding service as a Lieutenant Colonel with the Canadian Women’s Army Corps was rewarded with the Order of the British Empire in 1946. After the war, Dover served two terms on Calgary city council, from 1949 to 1952 and 1957 to 1960. One of the first female officers in Canada, she led many efforts to inspire and support women in the military and volunteered with many organizations, including the Canadian Legion, the Red Cross and the Women’s Canadian Club. The YWCA’s Dover House and the northeast Calgary community of Dover are named in her memory.
Jean Anne Drever Pinkham; born 1849 at Lower Fort Garry, Man.;
died Jan. 3, 1940: After moving to Calgary in 1887 when her husband became Archbishop of Saskatchewan and Calgary, she helped establish the General Hospital, the first hospital in Calgary, and the Women’s Hospital Aid Society to help support the facility. She also helped organize the Calgary Chapter of the Victoria Order of Nurses and the Local Council of Women, of which she was the first chair.
Alice Jukes Jamieson; born July 14, 1860 in New York City; died
June 4, 1949: A noted community activist, she arrived in Alberta in 1903 after her husband, Reuben Rupert Jamieson — who later became Calgary’s 19th mayor — was appointed superintendent for Canadian Pacific Railway’s western division. Jamieson was a founding member of the Calgary YWCA and served as president of the Calgary Council of Women, which advocated for women’s suffrage in Alberta. In 1916, she became the country’s first female judge of a juvenile court, and later the second female police magistrate in Canada while presiding over the Calgary Women’s Court.
Marion Coutts Carson; born May 9, 1861 in Kent County, Ont.;
died July 13, 1950: Struck by the number of people suffering from tuberculosis during her early days in Calgary, she helped spearhead the first TB Sanatorium in Alberta, which opened in 1910. Carson led the Alberta Tuberculosis Society for 11 years and in 1912 helped establish an eight-bed hospital for tuberculosis patients. Named Calgary’s Citizen of the Year in 1946, she advocated for free medical clinics for children and the distribution of milk to needy families. A driven community activist, she was a member of the Calgary School Board from 1920 to 1924 and as a member of the Calgary Library Board, advocated for the establishment of a central library.
Ali Ahmed Abouchadi “Alexander
Hamilton”: Lured by tales of the Klondike gold rush, 12-year-old Ali and his uncle left Lebanon in 1905 to strike it rich in Canada. A year later, the two would travel between Edmonton and Lac La Biche, selling wares from a suitcase. By 1915, Alexander had opened his own store and would later obtain a Ford dealership. His granddaughter says Alexander learned to speak Cree and later piloted boats that would stop at Mounted Police outposts along the Mackenzie River. By the late 1920s, he owned a department store, the Ford dealership, a service station, a cattle ranch and a sawmill, according to accounts of his life. The town has honoured his memory with Alexander Hamilton park and fish pond.
Lars Willumsen; died Sept. 10, 1984: Received the Order of Canada in 1976 in recognition of his 50-year involvement with the Calgary Zoo and his interest in the province’s prehistoric dinosaurs. Willumsen was behind the creation of the zoo’s Prehistoric Park in the 1930s following his visit to a similar park in Hamburg, Germany. He hired local carver John Kanerva to build more than 50 dinosaur replicas. The original Natural History Park opened in 1937.
Ruth Peacock Gorman; born Feb. 14, 1914; died Dec. 20, 2002: Graduated from law school in 1940 but never practised. She volunteered as a legal adviser to Alberta’s indigenous people for 25 years, leading changes to the Indian Act and voting rights, and with the Calgary Local Council of Women for more than 30 years. In 1951, she helped organize the Calgary Handicapped Society for Crippled Persons and was instrumental in developing a school and shop for training disabled workers. Given the name Queen Morning Star of the Cree for her work with Alberta’s indigenous communities, she was named to the Order of Canada in 1968.
John Andrew Allan; born 1884 in Quebec; died 1955: This oilsands pioneer had a leading role in the development of Alberta’s mineral resources. He was named the first professor of geology at the University of Alberta shortly after graduating from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. With students, he created a comprehensive resource map of the province, which led to the creation of the Scientific and Industrial Research Council of Alberta and the Alberta Geological Survey in 1921. Allan and many he taught are credited with petroleum discoveries across the province. In a 1927 radio interview, he predicted the oil boom which began in 1947 with the discovery of the Leduc field.
Jim Tamagi: Born to a Japanese immigrant from Okinawa and raised as a farmer in southern Alberta, he built Bridge Brand Food Services into the largest independent food service distribution company in Canada. The business employs more than 700 people at six distribution centres across Western Canada. Tamagi’s extensive community involvement included work with the Calgary Rotary Club, Tourism Calgary and the Calgary Stampede. Tamagi helped establish the Stampede “Pot of Gold” prize as president of the Jaycees and the Dream Home as president of the Rotary Club.
Arthur (Art) Jenkyns; died 2005: The local businessman founded Operation Eyesight in 1963 after a Canadian physician, Ben Gullison, sought help in raising funds to treat India’s blind. Jenkyns became a tireless champion for blindness prevention and treatment. He travelled the country to raise financial support and awareness. The organization, which started in Jenkyns’ basement, has since raised millions of dollars for its objective of providing “the best for the poorest.”
Richard Edward Taylor; born Nov. 2, 1929 in Medicine Hat: The Stanford University professor shared the 1990 Nobel Prize for physics for “pioneering investigations concerning deep inelastic scattering of electrons on protons and bound neutrons, which have been of essential importance for the development of the quark model in particle physics.” Taylor earned two degrees from the University of Alberta before joining the High Energy Physics Laboratory at Stanford.
Jenny Belzberg; born Jan. 7, 1928: A tireless community volunteer and advocate for the arts, the Order of Canada recipient is a founding member of the Esther Honens Calgary International Piano Competition and the Canadian Cancer Society’s annual Daffodil Gala, among many initiatives. She has served on numerous boards, including the Banff Centre for the Arts, the Calgary Philharmonic Society and the Calgary Art Gallery Foundation. Belzberg also founded the Calgary Arts Partnership in Education Society, which teams artists with teachers at more than 60 city schools. She and her late husband, Hyman, were honoured in 1992 by the Jewish National Fund for their many contributions.
Clayton Robert Carroll; born April 28, 1920 in Nevis, Alta.; died Aug. 28, 2011: The SAIT alumnus and Second World War veteran spent his early working years with White Motor Company before he and James F. Burns Sr. created Pioneer Paving Ltd. in 1953. The company built the first phases of several major Calgary roads, including Deerfoot, Blackfoot and Sarcee Trails. In 2003, he was presented with Rotary International’s highest honour, the Service Above Self Award. In 2000, SAIT named the Clayton Carroll Automotive Centre in honour of his $1 million donation to enhance automotive training for students.
John Stanton: A one-time heavy smoker, Stanton began an earlymorning running regimen to lose weight and improve his health. The routine led to his participation in dozens of marathons, many triathlons and, in 1984, the opening of the first Running Room store inside an old Edmonton home. The business has become among the most recognized names in running and walking, with more than 120 stores in Canada and the United States employing some 1,300 people. Stanton has also authored 10 books on running and fitness.
Tony Spoletini followed up a successful career in football with one in the food business as one of the owners of Spolumbo’s. Spoletini has been a leading force in the development of Calgary minor football.
Ron “Buck Shot” Barge, with his pal, Benny the Bear, was a mainstay of local television entertainment for 30 years with his children’s program.
Mary Cross Dover.
William Roper Hull
The founder of The Running Room, John Stanton, enjoys a lighthearted moment with Governor General David Johnston at his Order of Canada presentation at Rideau Hall in Ottawa in 2010.
Art Jenkyns, founded Operation Eyesight Universal, which has treated 30 million people in 11 countries for various eye ailments. He said he couldn’t have done it without the support of his wife, Una.