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Zella (Hayes) Gardiner

Zella Gardiner

Zella Marie Hayes was born July 29, 1949 in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan to Charles and Rose (Turnbull) Hayes. Rose’s parents had come from Scotland and Charles’ family was of Irish descent. The family moved to Calgary where Zella’s father worked for Canadian National Defence. In a family of 7 children, there were no fancy luxuries, but Zella credits her parents with instilling in her the belief that, in order to make the best of your community, you need to take part in its activities and support its organizations. Zella has demonstrated this commitment to community throughout her life. As a young girl in Calgary, Zella volunteered in many community organizations including School Patrols, Girl Guides, St. John’s Ambulance, and the Moose Lodge Teen club. Each of these programs further instilled in Zella the principle to give freely of your time, attention, loyalty, and effort in all you do. While in Junior High, Zella became involved in her school’s foster child committee, where she helped raise money to support the foster child they had at that time. In high school, Zella had the opportunity to take a tourism course at the Alberta School in Tourism. Enamoured with the subject, Zella spent every holiday from grades 9-12 at the Alberta School of Tourism. Zella speaks highly of this experience and believes it has been extraordinarily useful throughout her life.

In 1964, Zella met her future husband, Jim Gardiner, in Cochrane, Alberta, where he was working as a telegrapher/operator for Canadian Pacific Railway. Engaged in 1967 and married in 1969, Zella and Jim moved to Edmonton as Jim was transferred. In 1972, Zella began working for CPR as well. She worked as a receptionist, switchboard operator, checker, and freight claims inspector.

Zella and Jim welcomed their daughters Cheryle Lynn in 1972 and Leslie Ann in 1974. With their Siamese cat, Sinbad, their family was complete. In early 1977, Zella and her family bought their home in Millet, the home Zella still resides in today.

While in Millet, Zella’s volunteer career really took off. When the family moved from Edmonton, Zella brought her Block Parents sign for her front window, a simple sign that let others know that her home was a safe environment; a place children could come should they need help. Zella was the first person to bring this organization to Millet. As her children were growing, Zella volunteered within their daycare, kindergarten, and play school activities. Then, in 1980, Zella joined the Lioness Club of Millet & District. Zella has contributed immensely to Millet’s Lion’s Club throughout the years; she has held positions ranging from charter member to president and has been bestowed multiple awards through the organization. Zella received her first award, Lioness of the Year, in 1988, the certificate of Appreciation from the Irricana Lions Club in 1996, the Lion of the Year in 2011, the Judge Brian Stevens Fellowship award for her work in raising money for the Lions Foundation Dog Guides program in 2012, the Bill Webber Fellowship award for her generosity with the Lions Eye Bank in 2012, and the President’s Appreciation Award in 2013 for going above and beyond in assisting the Lions president. Zella was also the recipient of the Mayor’s Merit award from the Town of Millet in 2017 for her continued dedication and contributions throughout our community. Zella remains an active member of the Millet & District Lions Club and has been a vital part of many of their accomplishments including their disaster relief fundraising, their gifting of computers to the local schools, and the creation of the Lions Memorial Campground in 2017.

After her job was abolished at CPR in 1991, Zella decided to run for Millet’s town council. She was elected that Fall and served for two terms. Zella was involved in the recreation committee, economic development, tourism committee, and Ag Society. Of her accomplishments while on council, Zella is most proud of her contributions to tourism and the construction of the Millet Fire Hall. Zella was appointed to the Battle River Tourist Association as a council representative for Millet during her first term, where she put her tourism education to good use. Extremely interested and motivated, Zella became the Battle River Tourism Association President in 1993. While president, Zella worked tirelessly to promote our area. 

Since completing her terms on council, Zella has continued to be involved in the community. Zella has been a faithful volunteer with many of the same organizations for decades including Block Parents, Lions Club, Tourism, Citizens on Patrol, and Communities in Bloom. Now retired, Zella’s hobbies include reading, sewing, and collecting books, cookbooks especially, from all over Alberta regarding the history of different communities and their people.