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Myrtle Amy (Wold) Wilk

Myrtle Wilk

Myrtle Amy (Wold) Wilk was born January 26, 1922, at Tawatinaw, Alberta. She was the sixth and youngest child of Ole Wold, a carpenter by trade, and his wife, Sigrid, both Norwegian immigrants. Ole built the family house on their homestead, which was about 3 miles from Myrtle’s childhood school. As a young girl, Myrtle would get rides on the toboggan to school in the winter, and she would ride a horse to school in the spring and fall. She was a very athletic child who loved all sports. She played baseball and she was also an excellent ice skater.

Upon graduating, Myrtle headed off to Edmonton to business school, where she became very proficient at typing and shorthand. After completing her business training, she was employed as a stenographer at a lawyer’s office in Clyde, Alberta. It was here in Clyde, that she met Louie Wilk, the love of her life. Louie was working at the Massey-Harris Farm Dealership in Clyde with his brother-in-law, Mike Scabar.

Louie and Myrtle were married on November 15th, 1947, in Edmonton. They moved to Millet, where Louie set up a very successful business as an agent for Massey-Harris farm machinery, as well as selling White Rose gasoline. He sold new and used machinery, binder twine, feed, and Elephant Brand fertilizer, and later became the dealer for New Holland farm machinery. Farmers came from all around, for Louie had a reputation as a fair and honest businessman. Each spring he would hold an auction sale, which would bring farmers from near and far. Myrtle was a huge supporter of Louie’s business. She would help with the bookkeeping and help out at the shop whenever time would permit. The shop was a hub of activity.  It was a favorite meeting place for farmers of the area to gather and discuss the crops, weather, and more.

Louie and Myrtle purchased a parcel of land of 5½ acres on the south end of the village of Millet, bordering on the Pipestone Creek. This estate is now subdivided into the development known as Wilks Drive, across from the current Fire Hall. The Wilks kept busy settling into their home. They planted a double row of spruce trees along the west border of their property, as well as a number of lilac bushes (which Myrtle absolutely loved) near the house. They planted a very large garden; Myrtle’s flower garden contained many different varieties, such as dahlias and gladiolas. They put up a barbed wire fence enclosure around a good portion of the property for their cows, and also built a cow barn, a pig barn and pen, a chicken coop and pen, and shelters for calves. Periodically, the cows would decide that the grass was greener on the other side of the fence, and would break through into the family’s garden or even into the yard of the neighbouring Grinde family. Myrtle’s youngest son, Joe, described coming home from school one day to discover the cows walking along the road up towards Moonen’s hill, now the Moonen Heights subdivision. He had to herd them all the way back home and then repair the fence.

Myrtle was kept extremely busy as the mother of five children: Marie, Robert, Audrey, Lawrence, and Joseph. Daily chores included laundry, cooking, gardening, and canning, as well as feeding the chickens, pigs, and cows. The cows also had to be milked twice a day. Later, when the children were old enough to help with some of the chores, Myrtle was able to devote more time to help with the farm implement business.

The Wilk children grew up with the advantage of all the fresh milk they could drink, plus delicious thick cream from the Jersey cows. Myrtle and Louie both worked with the animals. Myrtle would separate the cream from the skim milk with her cream separator, and even make homemade butter from the cream. This would never take too long, because the cream was so thick. Myrtle also sold some of the cream to the Millet Creamery. After the Millet Creamery shut down, Myrtle drove the cream to the creamery in Wetaskiwin. People would sometimes come to the house to buy a quart sealer of cream from those Jersey cows.

Myrtle was a very active member of the Millet Catholic Women’s League (C.W.L.) and worked very closely with her good friend, Ruth Brennan, organizing various C.W.L catering projects such as wedding banquets and spring church teas. Going to church every Sunday was very important, and Myrtle saw that her children all attended Catechism classes on Saturday afternoons. The Catholic priest, Father Sidney Stewart, became a very close family friend, and was nearly always a guest at the Wilk home for breakfast following Sunday Mass at St. Norbert’s Catholic Church.

Christmas Eve would find the family driving to Louie’s childhood home, the Wilk farm homestead, located near Round Hill, Alberta, near Camrose. During these family outings, as well as when journeying to Westlock to visit with Myrtle’s parents, the family would first pray for a safe journey, reciting the Rosary together, and then sing for the rest of the drive.

Music was a huge part of the Wilk family home life. Neither Myrtle or Louie had the chance to receive any music lessons as children. They both loved music and ensured that each of their five children would have this opportunity. Inevitably, most of the guests to the Wilk household would end up partaking in some kind of sing-along around the piano. Myrtle drove the children to Wetaskiwin for piano and violin lessons, and would often take along ladies from Millet who didn’t have a driver’s license, so they would have a chance to do some shopping.

Myrtle especially enjoyed camping with Louie and the family. She would save up $2 bills which would go towards the family’s summer camping trips, usually to the mountains or into B.C. Myrtle and Louie both enjoyed curling in the winter, and would often curl together at the old Millet Curling Rink on the north end of the village. This was probably one of the few fun activities they had time to enjoy.

In the summer of 1965, Myrtle won a new Ford car from a raffle draw at the Wetaskiwin Summer Fair. This car was sold, and Louie and Myrtle made plans to custom order a brand new 1966 Dodge Polara from the factory in Detroit, fly to Detroit, and drive it back home. It would be the trip of a lifetime, their second honeymoon! Myrtle was nervous about flying, but once she had her feet back on the ground, she thoroughly loved every single minute of the trip. They visited the Amish Country and went to see Arlington Cemetery, notably the new JFK memorial with its eternal flame. Meanwhile, back in Millet, another good friend of Myrtle’s, Mrs. Ann Kubicek, graciously looked after the Wilk children at home, so that Myrtle and Louie could enjoy this wonderful vacation.

Tragedy struck the family a year later, on November 21, 1966. Louie died unexpectedly and very suddenly of a heart attack. Myrtle and her children were totally devastated. Myrtle was now a widow at age 44.  She carried on in her strong, steadfast way, and bravely stepped up to run the business, along with all of her other duties. She tried to sell the business, but was unsuccessful in finding a buyer. She then rented out the building. A terrible fire consumed the building and also destroyed the adjacent Lang’s Drugstore. This whole turn of events was a huge setback for Myrtle, who was left with little income to raise her children. When the Wetaskiwin Co-op Association opened a store in Millet, Myrtle applied for a job, and luckily, she was hired. This was a great help.

Myrtle began to notice something was wrong with her arm and went to the doctor. She was given cortisone shots for over a year, but her arm did not improve. Then she began to have seizures, and it was discovered that she had a cancerous brain tumor.

Myrtle passed away on September 11, 1974, at the age of 52. It was a short life of hard work, dedication to her family, her church, the garden, and animals. Her legacy to her family is a solid sense of right and wrong for she had very strong morals. Responsibility, self-sufficiency, and honesty were attributes that she is remembered for.