Clara (Grapentine) Thompson
Clara Grapentine was born on December 14, 1912 to Herman Grapentine, a Ukrainian immigrant of German and French descent, and Augusta (Strauss) Grapentine, an immigrant from Russia. As a young man, Herman used a team of horses to run a service, hauling gravel and supplies for the High Level Bridge. He was an International Harvester dealer by the time he met Augusta. Herman and Augusta had four children: Clara, Stanley, Clarence, and Agnes. Clara’s father and her future father-in-law helped to build the United Church where she would later be an active member.
Clara attended Millet School until grade 8, when she had to leave to help out on the family farm after her father was injured by a bull. In her youth, Clara was a member of the Canadian Girls in Training, a church-based alternative to Girl Guides, and also sang in the United Church choir. In 1933, she was a cast member in “A Poor Married Man”, a play presented by local talent in Pinyon’s hall.
Throughout her life, Clara loved music, playing the organ, and singing. From her childhood onward, she was a member of the United Church choir, and in her youth, the Grapentines would often gather with other families in the community to sing. Clara was also a member of the Sweet Adelines, a female barbershop group, and the Wetaskiwin Choralaires. She also enjoyed knitting and crocheting in her spare time.
On November 7, 1935, Clara married Elwood Thompson. They were married by Reverend Harry Parker in the Millet United Church. The couple had two children, Grant and Bev.
Since leaving school in grade 8, Clara had been working on farms, and no exception was made after her marriage. In her youth, Clara often helped her father break in new horses (one time resulting in a broken nose) and she later assisted Elwood in this task for spring work. Clara also milked cows, drove farm machinery, led a team of horses with a mower to cut and rake hay, and in the fall would use a binder to harvest the grain crop. A busy homemaker, she also extensively gardened, canned, and raised chickens for eggs to sell both locally and commercially.
From 1936 to 1939, Clara and Elwood boarded Jean Staples, the Larch Tree School teacher, and helped integrate her into the community. As a member of the Millet and District Historical Society, Clara helped write and compile Tales and Trails of Millet. A devout member of the United Church, Clara continued to take part in the choir throughout her life, and taught Sunday school for a period of time. She was also a member of the United Church’s Women’s organization, and would often pick people up and give them a ride to church with her. Clara and Elwood hosted many rural elections at their home and she would provide coffee and wonderful homemade baked goods. Clara was a member of the local Rebekah Lodge, which was actively involved in community projects such as educational foundations, annual youth pilgrimages, youth camps, senior citizen housing, and homes for children. Another foundation that Clara was a very active member of was the Millet’s Women’s Institute, which raised funds for community projects and provided catering for weddings and other events.
Clara passed away on June 15th, 2001 at the age of 88.