150 Okotokians Who Have Made A Difference

In celebration of Canada's 150th birthday, the Okotoks Museum and Archives presents 150 Okotokians who have made a difference in our community -past or present. New people will be posted each week!

Do you have someone we should consider? Email your suggestion to culture@okotoks.ca

Dr. Alfred E. Ardiel

Dr. Alfred E. Ardiel arrived in Okotoks in 1907 and served as a medical doctor here for 43 years. He made many house calls by buggy or sleigh as well as treated patients at his office located in his beautiful brick home on McRae Street. Dr. Ardiel also served as medical health officer and coroner for High River, Nanton, and Okotoks. He was an avid sportsman, playing on such teams as the Okotoks Cricket Team, Lawn Bowling Team, Tennis Club, and Curling Club. Dr. Ardiel and his wife Gertrude had three children, Leonard, Kathleen, and Maurice. Dr. Ardiel passed away in 1950. 

Max Bell

George Maxwell "Max" Bell, born in Regina in 1912, was a well-known businessman, newspaper publisher, sports promoter, and philanthropist. He established Golden West Farms on the south side of the Sheep River in 1959. The 500-acre farm became known as the biggest and best thoroughbred breeding farm in Alberta, and his horses won numerous races including the Coronation Stakes in Toronto, the Manitoba Derby, the Winnipeg Futurity and the Canadian Derby. The farm attracted Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Robert Kennedy, Roy Rogers, and Dale Evans. Max Bell passed away in 1972 and is buried in the Okotoks Cemetery. Four businessmen later purchased the farm; part of which has been developed into the Hunter's Glen and Sheep River Ridge subdivisions. A pathway along the Sheep River is named after him as well as a theatre and arena in Calgary. 

(Photo courtesy Toronto Public Library)

Helen Blondin

The Okotoks Figure Skating Club is in its 52nd year and it owes its start to Helen Blondin. Helen and her family moved to Okotoks in 1959. Her vision was to establish a figure skating club that would help develop skating skills as well as nurture a love of the sport. Further, it provided a winter pastime other than hockey. In 1965, the Okotoks Figure Skating Club was founded. Helen recalls "...I went to town council to see about ice -they gave us two hours a week, in exchange we'd split the canival proceeds with them. So began a club with 37 skaters, a coach whose only charge was mileage, "free" ice, and an annual membership fee of $10 which included ice time, instruction, carnival costumes and encouragement from the on and off-ice supervision moms." Helen was often called Mother Mabel or Ma Blondin as she was a spare mother at the rink to so many. She also sewed costumes for the skaters, and recorded the music for their solos, tests, and carnivals. The Blondins moved away in 1977, but the figure skating club serves as her legacy. (Helen will be celebrating her 89th birthday this year.)

James Bullivant

William James Bullivant was born Sept. 21, 1886 and grew up south of Okotoks on the family farm. On March 4, 1916 he joined the High River Platoons of the 137th Battalion and later the 10th Battalion, also known as the "Fighting Tenth." Pte. Bullivant participated in the Battle at Vimy Ridge on April 9, 1917. He was first reported as wounded but it was later confirmed that he had died on that date. Pte. Bullivant's name is inscribed on the Vimy Memorial in France. It bears the names of 11,000 Canadian servicemen who died in France -many of them in the fight for Vimy Ridge -but who have no known grave. 


Winnifred Carr

Winnifred Carr devoted her life to serving the community. She was a founding member of the Okotoks Royal Purple, serving as a member for over 50 years. She also served on the Okotoks School Board, Nursing Board, and was a member of the Women's Auxiliary of the Okotoks Legion. 

During World War II, Winne worked in a munitions factory in Ontario while her husband Colby served overseas. In a letter home to Okotoks on October 23, 1942, she wrote: "I operate a machine for the making of certain parts of anti-aircraft guns and am enjoying my work very much as well as the satisfactory feeling it gives one by doing something really necessary towards the ending of the war."

Winnie was named Okotoks Citizen of the Year in 1979. 

Marg Cox

Marg Cox has devoted over three decades to bringing the Okotoks community together, whether it was organizing events in her role as the town's community events coordinator or as a volunteer and supporter of numerous clubs, organizations, and charities. In fact, you'd be hard pressed to find an organization that hasn't benefited in some way from the work that Marg has done or is doing for the town.

Marg worked for the Town of Okotoks for 28 years, first as the town's recreation programmer, recreation centre manager, client services and then events coordinator. She spearheaded many community events which have become embedded into Okotoks' culture including Light Up Okotoks and the Okotoks Parade. She went so far above and beyond her normal job to foster community pride by organizing Canada Day celebrations, the Okotoks Rodeo, Birth of a Nation Day, Kite Day, and the Old-Fashioned Country Fair to name only a few.

A highlight for the town and for Marg was the 1988 Winter Olympic Games. She was instrumental in bringing the Soviet figure skating team to Okotoks to practice prior to the Winter Olympics in Calgary. 

Her support for the community runs deep. Marg has served as president of the Foothills Country Hospice Society, is a founding member of the Foothills Ladies Compassion Cup and is a huge supporter of such organizations as KidSport, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Okotoks Oilers, Make a Wish Foundation, and Terry Fox Foundation, among many others. She continues to be the town's greatest ambassador. She's everywhere! You see her volunteering at the annual Show and Shine, walking in the Terry Fox Run, participating in a charity bowl-a-thon, and helping to organize events such as the 2016 Pinty's Grand Slam of Curling Masters.

Marg's willingness to get involved and to champion local causes is unparalleled. And she does everything with gusto. No wonder she's won the Western Wheel's Readers' Choice Award for 'Most Beloved Citizen' ever since it started. 

Arthur Dixon

Arthur Dixon grew up in Okotoks, son of John and Margaret Dixon. Following service in World War II, he was drawn to politics and public service. In 1952 he was elected as a member of the Alberta Legislature representing the provincial Social Credit Party. Art served as an MLA in Calgary for over 23 years. In 1963 he was elected the seventh Speaker of the Alberta Legislative Assembly and held this position until the defeat of the government in 1972. Art was a member of numerous volunteer and service organizations and also volunteered as a Citizenship Court Judge welcoming new Canadians and awarding them their citizenship certificates.

In 1979 Art was appointed to the Order of Canada and received the Medal of Canada in recognition of his contributions to the province of Alberta. He also received the Alberta Achievement Award in recognition of his community service. 

Kenn Eastlick

Kenn Eastlick devoted  his life to public education. Kenn's passion for learning and his love of sports impacted the lives of hundreds of students, first at Tofield, AB and then at Okotoks where  he served as principal of Okotoks Jr.Sr. High School from 1974-1985. As a teacher, sports coach, and principal, Kenn led by example, demonstrating integrity, responsibility, work ethic, and quiet pride. Hi commitment to students was unparalleled; his interest in their wellbeing was genuine. He also believed that sound academics combined with strong athletics provided a foundation for life. Kenn developed a love of basketball as a  youth, and then coached basketball throughout his teaching career. He tirelessly gave of his time to mentor players and coaches alike, instilling the importance of effort and teamwork. Even after his retirement, Kenn remained a fan of the game and was often found in the stands at both the Ocelots' and Falcons' games. In later years, Kenn was an anonymous snow angel, often shovelling snow from seniors' sidewalks during his daily walks around town. 

Kenn passed away on November 15, 2016. 

Bill Flett

Bill 'Cowboy' Flett, a product of Okotoks minor hockey, started his hockey career with the Melville Millionaires in 1962 at the age of 17, and was named to the league's All-Star team in his rookie season. When the NHL expanded from six to 12 teams in 1967, Flett was drafted as a right winger by the Los Angeles Kings. In 1972 he was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers, where he had his career-best season, scoring 43 goals. The following season, he was part of the Flyers' 1974 Stanley Cup Champion team. He then played with the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Atlanta Flames before being traded in 1976 to the Edmonton Oilers of the WHA. In 1979, the same year the Oilers joined the NHL, Flett retired part way through the season after suffering multiple broken ribs. He continued his involvement with the Oilers as a scout and playing in old timers' hockey games in support of numerous charities. Over the course of his 13-year career with the NHL, Flett scored over 200 goals and became famous for his distinctive beard. 

Dr. Janet Gibson

Dr. Janet Gibson and her family came to Okotoks in 1955. Originally from Scotland, Janet and her husband Morris were practicing medicine in Yorkshire, England when they decided to move to Canada. Much is known about her doctor-author husband, however, Dr. Janet had an equally significant impact on Okotoks. In fact, when the Gibsons were debating what town to Alberta to move to, it was Janet who said: "Let's make it Okotoks. It's got two Oks in it, so it's OK with me."

The Gibsons practiced medicine in Okotoks until 1971. Dr. Janet also served as president of the local Red Cross Association and Parent-Teachers' Association. She and her husband co-founded the Okotoks Horse Show which continues to be an annual tradition and will be marking its 60th anniversary this fall. 

Prior to moving to Canada, Dr. Janet served in World War II as a house surgeon, physician and anaesthetist. 

Dr. Morris Gibson

Dr. Morris Gibson, originally from Scotland, served in the Royal Army Medical Corps in World War II, later practicing in Yorkshire, England before he and his family moved to Okotoks in 1955. 

Dr. Gibson and his wife Janet practiced medicine, first from their home in Okotoks, and then in a former one-room schoolhouse that had been moved from the country into town. He established the Sheep Creek Medical Clinic in 1970. A believer in lifelong learning, Dr. Gibson served for 10 years as a trustee on the school board. In 1971 he was appointed professor and head, Division of Family Medicine at the University of Calgary School of Medicine. 

After retiring to British Columbia, Dr. Gibson wrote three books: "One Man's Medicine," "A Doctor in the West," and "Doctor at Large," which recounted his years as a country doctor in Alberta. An elementary school in Okotoks is named after him. 

Mary Gillard

Mary Gillard taught generations of Okotoks residents over the course of her 65-year teaching career. Originally from Coronation, AB., Mary became a teacher at the age of 17 in the Peace River country. In the 1960s, she and her husband Hugh moved to the Okotoks area where she continued to teach. She first taught Grade 9 at Okotoks Junior High School and then became a much-loved substitute teacher in Okotoks for the next 40-plus years, subbing well into her 80s. Mary firmly believed that if you show respect for students, they will respect you. The library at the Foothills Composite High School was renamed the Mary Gillard Learning Commons in 2013. Her community involvement also included the Order of the Eastern Star, Calgary Stampede Board, and curling, among others. 

Charles Halstead

Charles Halstead moved to Okotoks in 1937 and enlisted with the 14th Calgary Tank Regiment in 1941. He spent over 4.5 years on active service overseas, during which time he attained the rank of Regimental Sergeant Major and was awarded the Military Medal in March 1944 for his courage and initiative. Charlie later served on Okotoks Council from 1968-74 and was a member of the volunteer fire department for many years, including several years as fire chief. 

Edwin Hayes

Edwin Hayes was born in New Brunswick in 1862 and came west by working on the construction of the railroad. Ed joined the Steele Scouts in 1885, and following the Riel Rebellion he took scrip land between Okotoks and Dewinton in lieu of pay. He served as secretary-treasurer of the Municipal District of Sheep Creek for 40 years before it was amalgamated into the MD of Foothills. He was a founding member of both the Sheep River (later renamed Okotoks) Agricultural Society and the Okotoks branch of the Royal Canadian Legion. Edwin was the recipient of the Coronation Medal issued by King George for service to his community and country. 

Dr. Grant Hill

Dr. Grant Hill has served the Okotoks community for over 45 years in a variety of capacities. He was born in Montreal and raised in the west, graduating from medical school at the University of Alberta in 1968. Dr. Hill moved to Okotoks in 1970 and established a medical practice that served the Okotoks community until 1993. During that time, he also served as Chief of Staff of the High River Hospital from 1986 to 1990. 

But it wasn't all medicine. Dr. Hill and his wife Sue established the Okotoks Collector Car Auction in 1975 which is now the longest running auction of its kind in Canada. Dr. Hill also took an active role in politics. He served one term on Okotoks Town Council from 1974 to 1977. In 1993, he was elected as a Member of Parliament to represent the federal riding of Macleod. Dr. Hill served as the Opposition Health Critic for five years and as Deputy Leader for two years. He was Interim Leader of the new Conservative Party of Canada in 2004. During this time Dr. Hil became a member of the Privy Council of Canada.

Dr. Hill returned to medicine in 2005 and retired in 2013. A park in the Westmount subdivision is named in his honour. 

Sam Hodson

Sam Hodson, originally from Ireland, came to Okotoks in 1906 and purchased the Okotoks Review from Charles Clark Sr. Sam served as publisher of the Okotoks Review for 41 years, recording our town's history as it happened. Sam was also active in municipal politics for 30 years, five of which were as mayor (1937-1941). He was a life-long member of the Masons, founder of the Alberta Grand Lodge in 1905 and the Okotoks Corinthian Lodge in 1906, and was a member of the Okotoks Elk Lodge. Sam showed  profound kindness to many in the community, particularly during the Depression. He delighted in giving coloured paper to children, gifts to local brides, and shoes to needy youngsters. 

Sam passed away in 1961.

Ted Howard

Terrance "Ted" Howard, born in Pakistan in 1882, came to Alberta in 1901 following service in the Boer War when just a teen. He homesteaded near Blackie and then worked as a ranch hand for W.D. Lineham on the lower ranch southwest of Okotoks. He served in World War I in the 82nd Battalion. He returned to Okotoks where he married Mary Wilson who was matron at the High River Hospital. From 1917 to 1937 he served as forest ranger at the Elbow River Ranger Station, where he was responsible for preserving and protecting the forest reserve. After retiring from the forestry service, Ted and Mary bought 40 acres of land on the south side of the river where the Woodhaven subdivision is now located. Their home became a haven for orphaned animals. Ted died in 1962 and Mary in 1969. Howard Park in the Woodhaven subdivision is named after him. Mount Howard, located in the Kananaskis at the head of Nihahi Creek and Canyon Creek, is also named after Ted in recognition of his 20 years of service as a forest ranger. 

Pat (Jensen) Jeffery

Pat (Jensen) Jeffery grew up on a farm west of Okotoks and is a nurse, athlete, and author. Pat clinched the Canadian luge championships in 1985 and had her sights set on competing at the Calgary Winter Olympics in 1988, but a crash kept her from fulfilling her dream. She went on to become a luge official and has been twice recognized by the International Luge Federation for her contributions to the sport. After her luge career, Pat returned to nursing and became a flight nurse with STARS Air Ambulance logging well over 1,000 missions...and counting. Her commitment to critical care nursing has impacted thousands of lives. Pat is also a screenwriter and author. 

Sandi Kennedy

Sandi Kennedy has long been an ambassador of Okotoks. Sandi operated Sandi's Styles for several years, and served on the Okotoks and District Chamber of Commerce including serving as its president. Sandi was elected mayor in 1989 and became the first (and still only) female mayor in the town's history. During her six years as mayor, Sandi helped guide the town through enormous growth and change, which included the development of the new Okotoks Library on Riverside Drive, the fire station on Milligan Drive, and the Sandstone Lodge seniors' residence, among many others. While mayor, Sandi also served as a director of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association. 

Sandi continues to contribute to the success and wellbeing of the community as a member of the Okotoks Rotary Club. She heads up such committees as the Rotary's annual mac and cheese luncheon to raise much needed funds for the Okotoks Food Bank. She also remains one of the town's biggest boosters through her role as a local real estate agent providing potential buyers with a positive first impression of our community. 

A.B. King

Arthur Black King came to Okotoks with his family in 1917 to work as manager of the Royal Bank on McRae Street. A.B. is considered to be one of the first flying bankers in Canada as he often took a plane from Okotoks to the oilfields in Turner Valley to deliver the $50,000 payroll to Imperial Oil Co. workers. This was due to the often impassable condition of the roads and the fear of being held up by thieves.

A.B. also had a passion for hockey and served on the board of directors of the Okotoks Hockey Club in the 1920s and also served as president of the Alberta Hockey Association. 

John Lineham

John Lineham (1857-1913) arrived in Okotoks in the late 1880s and became a successful entrepreneur, rancher and politician. He purchased timber rights on the Sheep and Highwood Rivers and built saw mills in both Okotoks and High River. Lineham owned two large ranches west of Okotoks, and built large commercial and residential blocks in Okotoks and Calgary. He also served in the NWT Legislature and was Mayor of Okotoks in 1909 and 1910. Lineham is also widely considered western Canada's first "oil man." He, along with George Leeson and Allan Patrick, established the Rocky Mountain Development Company in February 1901 and later that year began drilling Alberta's first oil exploration well on the site of known oil seeps near Cameron Lake, in what is now Waterton Lakes National Park. 

George Lock

Born and raised in the Okotoks district, George Lock holds the record for longest serving mayor of Okotoks. After serving as a town councillor for seven years from 1944 to 1960, George went on to serve 18 years as a much respected mayor. He was only challenged once in his nine two-year terms. During that time, George helped guide Okotoks from a population of 1,000 people to the start of the population explosion in the late 1970s.

A keen sportsman, George served as secretary of the Okotoks Curling Club for 12 years. He was also a permanent fixture at Okotoks Oilers men's hockey games, serving in such capacities as board member, timekeeper, and announcer for the senior team, which played at various times in the Foothills, Big 6, and Ranchland hockey leagues. 

Helen McKay

Helen McKay moved with her parents to Okotoks in 1925. She became a teacher and joined the Okotoks School Staff in 1933. She enlisted with the Canadian Women's Army Corps (CWAC) in 1943 and, following basic training, she was posted to Calgary and was attached to the No. 16 Adminstrative Unit at Currie Barracks. Helen was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant in June 1944. She served with the CWAC until 1946 and later with the RCASC Militia Unit and High River. She returned to teaching until her retirement in 1972. Throughout her teaching career, Helen fostered a social awareness in her students, encouraging them to be active citizens and to help those less fortunate. 

Jim "Bearcat" Murray

Jim "Bearcat" Murray is a tireless ambassador for the sport of hockey and the Okotoks community. Raised in Okotoks since the age of five, Bearcat spent much of his youth at the Okotoks arena, lacing up his hockey skates for the Okotoks Oilers. Bearcat went on to serve 29 years as an athletic trainer and therapist in both football and hockey. He worked for the Calgary Centennials, Calgary Cowboys, Calgary Wranglers, the Calgary Stampeders, and the Calgary Flames. He served 16 years with the Flames; a highlight of which was winning the Stanley Cup for the 1988-89 season. Bearcat was inducted into the Hockey  Hall of Fame in June 2009 by the Professional Hockey Athletic Trainers Society and the Society of Professional Hockey Equipment Managers. He was named to the Okotoks Hall of Fame in 2014.

Bearcat tackles everything with boundless energy, a positive attitude, and a sense of humour. He has his own Wikipedia page and has even had two fan clubs. The Bearcat Murray Fan Club was first established in Boston and another chapter later established in Montreal. But Bearcat never forgot his roots and whenever and wherever possible he proudly proclaims he's just a "bald-headed little potlicker from Okotoks." Oh, the stories he can tell! Bearcat freely gives his time to speak at schools and sports banquets and is never too busy to support the countless charities and fund-raising events that call on him every year. 

Elmer Piper

Elmer Piper operated 'Okotoks Service,' a farm implement dealership and garage for 30 years and served on Okotoks Council for seven years. However, Elmer is best known for his hockey and coaching career. He played with the Saskatoon Quakers when they took the world championship in 1934. He coached the Trail Smoke Eaters to the Allan Cup final in 1938 and then moved to Okotoks to coach the newly formed Turner Valley Oilers. He went on to coach the Baltimore Orioles in Maryland for a season before returning to coach the Currie Barracks Army hockey team. After the war, hockey was revived in Okotoks and Elmer coached the Okotoks Oilers for 15 more years. The Piper Arena is named after his contributions to hockey. He was also inducted into the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame as a member of the 1934 Saskatoon Quakers. 

Pat Milligan

Patrick Milligan spent 18 years on Okotoks Council, first as a town councillor for nine years and then served as mayor of Okotoks for three terms, totalling another nine years, from 1968 until 1977. The mindful planning undertaken during his terms as mayor helped lay the foundation for the future growth and unprecedented development of Okotoks that ocurred during the late 70s and early 80s. Pat and his wife Jean moved to Okotoks in 1951. He worked as the elevator agent for Midland Pacific, and then in 1956 he established Okotoks Feed Service located on South Railway Street which he operated for over 40 years. Pat was active with numerous community organizations including the Okotoks Elks, the Okotoks Agricultural Society, Chamber of Commerce, Okotoks Curling Club, and was among those who helped establish the Okotoks Scout Hall. 

Pat passed away in 1989. 

Lester Scanlon

Lester Scanlon graduated from SAIT in 1974 as a journeyman chef and pursued his passion for cooking throughout his life. Lester and his wife Charmayne moced to Okotoks in 1976 where they owned and operated the Lazy L Pizza and Steak House. Lester was a tireless community booster, particularly for local business and sports. He served on the Okotoks and District Chamber of Commerce for many years including serving three years as president. He was also involved with many hockey and baseball teams, investing both time and sponsorship. Lester was one of the driving forces behind the creation of the Okotoks 85ers Junior B team in 1985 and served as its managing director. He was also involved with the Okotoks Oilers organization, including a term as president. Lester often kept his restaurant open late to feed the players after the game. In 1986, Lester and his wife Charmayne were named Okotoks Citizens of the Year. After 17 years in Okotoks, the Scanlons moved to Mountain View.

Lester passed away in 2001. 

Frederick Stockton

Dr. Frederick Stockton was one of the first medical doctors to practice in Okotoks. He financed the large brick Stockton Block in 1903 which housed his medical practice, as well as a drugstore, Union Bank, apartments, and offices. Dr. Stockton also served as the town's first mayor following its incorporation in 1904, making Okotoks the first community between Calgary and Fort Macleod to be incorporated. Streets in the Okotoks Business Park are named in his honour. 

Ethel Tucker

Born at Davisburg in 1912, Ethel Tucker devoted her life to the community. She was named the town's first Citizen of the Year in 1976 for her tireless volunteerism with such organizations as the Okotoks Food Bank, Arthritis Society, Canadian Red Cross, Okotoks Horse Show, Okotoks Oilers and Foothills Bisons hockey teams. Ethel also managed the Sears catalogue office in Okotoks. She never married, however, she considered the citizens of Okotoks to be her large, extended family. Ethel passed away in 1995 and friends offered this tribute: "Ethel stood out as a symbol of all pioneer women of Western Canada -hard working, courageous, bearing pain without complaint, always ready with a helping hand. Her heart was as big as the outdoors." Centennial Park was renamed Ethel Tucker Centennial Park in 1995. 

Greg Wedderburn

Born and raised in Okotoks, Greg Wedderburn grew up at the hockey rink and captained just about every team he was on. When he wasn't playing hockey, Greg was coaching hockey. He started coaching as a teenager in 1963 and continued to inspire new generations of hockey players for the next 30 years at all levels. Greg was instrumental in bringing the Junior A Oilers to Okotoks in 2004. He literally helped build the Junior A Oilers organization into what it is today --he was always rolling up his sleeves and getting things done. 

Greg's commitment to the community went beyond hockey. He taught in Okotoks for 31 years, first at Percy Pegler School and then at Okotoks Junior High School where he coached volleyball, track and field, and football. He inspired and challenged his students to excel both in the classroom and in the community. Greg passed away in 2013. 

Bill Wylie

Wylie Athletic Park, which encompasses the Okotoks Recreation Centre and adjoining recreational space, was officially dedicated in 1986 to honour the long-standing community service of Bill Wylie. Bill was elected to council in 1973 and then served four terms (12 years) as mayor from 1978 to 1989. Bill was also a member of the Okotoks Volunteer Fire Department for 12 years and very active with the Okotoks Lions Club. Bill was the driving force behind the development of the much-needed recreation centre and the 47-acre master recreation site, which now bears his name. 

Beatrice Wyndham

In 1919, Beatrice Wyndham became the first woman ever elected to public office in Okotoks. She served on the Okotoks School Board for 12 years. Beatrice was a tireless community worker. She served on the Okotoks Agricultural Society's fair board, volunteered with the Red Cross, was a member of the St. Peter's Anglican Church women's auxiliary and the Okotoks Book Club, and was an avid curler on a team she called the 'Wild Cat Team.' That was a fitting name for a tenacious woman who wasn't afraid to stand up for her beliefs. A park is named after her in the Drake Landing subdivision. 

Stylized maple leaf with Canada 150 underneath
Okotoks Museum & Archives
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Okotoks Museum & Archives


Closed Sundays, Mondays and stat holidays.