Laura Isabel: Prologue – Chapter 1 of 5

Written by Harold McNeill on October 19th, 2010. Posted in Biographies


Laura Isabel Skarsen (McNeill)(Wheeler)
In Memory of
Laura Isabel Skarsen (McNeill) (Wheeler)
A True Canadian Pioneer
1918 – 2008

Link to Part 1 A New Beginning 
Link to part 2
 The Early Years
Link to Part 3 The Young Woman
Link to Part 4 A New Beginning
Link to Part 5 The Final Chapter

Laura Isabel: Prologue – Chapter 1 of 5

It is amazing how much the world changed during Laura’s lifetime. Born in a Southern Alberta dust storm, at five years old she was on a wagon train with her parents and grandparents as they headed to Northern Saskatchewan in order to create a new life on a homestead.

She grew into adulthood in the Great Depression as clouds of dust blanketed the prairies and jobless men road freight trains in search of work. The ‘great’ depression barely ended when the Second World War seized the world in it’s powerful grip. It was a character building period that began in the ashes of one world war and ended with the euphoria that accompanied the years following World War II.

The first 30 years of her life were spent without the benefit of electricity or running water, with food that was largely home grown and preserved by the family. The long, sometimes, bitterly cold prairie winters, created a family closeness that would hold for a lifetime.

Laura and every sibling was born at home and medical help was often days away.  Families frequently numbered ten or more and everything was shared among family and friends whenever the need arose.

For the next 60 years Laura lived and watched as the world of technology took mankind to the moon, built a space station and explored Mars as everyone watched from their living room; a world where families communicated instantly by email and maintained daily contact by sharing pictures, stories and playing games on Facebook.

Even well into her eighties, Laura was willing to do and try new things – like a purchasing a new Digital Video Recorder (DVR) for her TV. Make no mistake that little gadget can frustrate a technologically savvy thirty something so it was neat to phone Laura and hear her say, “Just a moment while I pause this program” or if you dropped by and she was in the middle of her favourite daytime show say, “It’s okay, I can watch it later I have it recorded, can you stay for coffee?”

Harold and Lynn McNeill
June 2008

Footnote:

The following short biography first appeared in a Laura’s Heritage Cookbook, completed in the spring of 2008 as surprise for her 90th birthday party.  The idea of the book originated with Lynn while mom was living with our family in Victoria in 2005.  When mom came to stay, she brought with her a large file filled with her favorite recipes; Most were handwritten, a few typewritten, a few torn from other books and many had little notes jotted in the margins to remind her of the source of the recipe, a story associated with that recipe or another small memory.

Unbeknown to mom, Lynn spirited the recipes away, photocopied each of the more than two hundred pages and secreted the copies for future use. Over the next three years Lynn transcribed the entire package, all with the intention that one day compiling a recipe book.

With mom’s 90th birthday was approaching in 2008, there seemed no better time to put the plan into action.  Over several weeks Lynn categorized and formatted the recipes using a program designed for that purpose.  Meanwhile, I began searching for photographs for insertion in the book and, as well, began writing a short biography to be used as an introduction. The biography, with corrections and updates, is presented in this five part blog entry.

The whole process took much longer than expected and as the clock clicked toward the day of our departure from Victoria, we frantically worked to complete the final draft. It was taken to the printer two day’s before our departure and on the evening before departure, the first 150 copies came off the press.

For this blog entry, a larger selection of photographs represent each of the four major periods of mom’s life. More in depth stories of the life and times of Mom, Dad and our family are presented in the Family Stories section.

Harold McNeill
October 2010

Link to part 2 The Early Years

Link to Part 3 The Young Woman

Link to Part 4 A New Beginning

Link to Part 5 The Final Chapter

 

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  • Maurice Smook

    August 13, 2016 |

    Hi Jillian,

    I don’t know if you are still checking this site but I had to respond again. February of 2017 it will be 72 years since this battle occurred.

    What caught my attention about this incident was on the Go Deep Documentary that aired on the History Channel. First of all I never known that this battle having ever occurred.

    According to my grade 3 teacher WW2 had never occurred. That grade 3 teacher stated that the WW2 and the holocaust was all propaganda. All of my classmates they believed her. I hate to say this but all I knew was that soldiers shooting at each other.

    I almost was expelled from school. My

    Mom my Dad my brother and my Uncle would have been arrested for propaganda. I paid the price. It was ironic a grade 5 teacher told me that Smooks are all commies. Dad was Conservative.

    All the Smooks that I known are all Conservative. If I had the money I would have loved to sue those two teachers.

    As I said I never heard of this Battle. If it were not for that program I would have never had known.

    I started to do more researching to find out more about the history of this battle. The narrator of Go Deep mentioned the names of the pilots who died that battle.

    I missed 20 minutes of that program but the camera crew had the camera’s pointed towards the sign with the names of the deceits. That is how I known.

    According to the narrator There are three who are still missing. W.J. Jackson, Harry Smook and A. Duckworth. A couple of months ago the staff of Go Deep have located Harry and A. Duckworths aircraft. This is on you tube. Harry and A. Duckworth craft is approx 650 feet deep in the Fjord. The individual who is heading this expansionary mission made it known he will not rest until all three of the missing pilots
    will be retrieved. I am sure that A. Duckworth’s kin are hoping for the same.

    What really puzzles me is that I have sent emails to the Smooks. Not one ever replying. I presume its the same with you. Sad. Dad rarely spoke about his family. It appears there is a big secret of the Smooks. I too assume Harry is a kin to my Dad. Harry maybe a 4th 5th cousin to my Dad. I too would like to know. Harry and A. Duckworth served and died for our country. The other is W.j. Jackson – who is also still missing – having died for our Country.

    In conclusion I still ask myself why is this a huge secret.

    If you are still checking this site please contact me. Maybe we may be kin.

    Take care.

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  • Valerie Heuman (Roddick)

    June 19, 2016 |

    Having just returned to the Okanagan Valley from a weekend in Pibroch, I am delighted to have stumbled on your blog to see the picture of the main street. My aunt and uncle Peggy & Gordon McGillvery owned and lived in the old Post Office on the North east corner of the main intersection and my brother Adrian currently lives south a bit backing on the School yard. We are Sheila’s cousins and still have a close connection to the town.

  • Sheila(Roddick) Allison

    May 19, 2016 |

    Hi. So fun to find your blog. I remember going to school with you and Louise. I loved my childhood in Pibroch which incidentally was named by my grandfather Aaron Roddick. I will never forget the night the garage burned down. Nice to see the landmark photo before the big fire!

  • George Dahl

    April 12, 2016 |

    What a great site. I’m trying to locate a woman named Sally Jennifer who was from the Cold Lake area back in the early sixties. I met her when I was stationed at Namao air base in Edmonton. I was serving with the USAF 3955 air refueling squadron from rhe fall 1963 till the spring of 64. Sally was 22 at the time I was 21. Sally was my first love. I had orders to ship out to South East Asia and we lost contact after that.
    If any of you know the where abouts of Sally I would like to get reacquainted with her. She is First Nation, Blackfoot I believe. She is Catholic and may have attended a Catholic school in Cold Lake.
    Thank You in advance, George Dahl

  • dave armit

    March 23, 2016 |

    good old fashioned police work done by good old fashioned policemen……….in regards to mr cain..i learned a few years ago that he was born on the same day in the same hospital that i was..my father was a close friend of the cain family…!!! interesting..d a

  • Joyce McMenamon

    March 1, 2016 |

    Haha, love it! We should probably eat rats and rabbits rather than beef. Also I’ve noticed that there are a lot less pests where dogs are not kept on leashes.

  • Kari

    February 27, 2016 |

    Thanks for a wonderful trip down memory lane Dad!!! That was an amazing trip and I am so glad that we had the opportunity to share that experience together!
    ❤️