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Wright was already launched into her lifelong avocation of helping others when
I first knew her. I was in my first year of high school, and she was 10 years
my senior. The year was 1937 and Irene was a busy volunteer in an era in which that word
held only military connotations for most people.
Irene liked people, and she loved to mingle. That winter of 1937-38 I would
meet her and get to know her at birthday parties, at skating parties on the
Blindman River or on Cooper’s Lake, or at young people’s get-togethers, either
community-or church-sponsored, at any of which she might be the oldest person in
the group. While she was congenial with all age groups, she was especially
popular with the younger set. She knew games to play, songs to sing, and ways to
get even the shyest wallflower into the mix and enjoying the evening. Her very
presence would assure any party’s success.
I also knew Irene in her white-collar role, as the person who represented the
town of Rimbey to the people of Rimbey. I remember climbing some wooden steps to
the door of the Rimbey town office, a wood-frame, false-fronted building on Main
Street East that was the village equivalent of city hall. On the right, as you
entered, a long, medium-high wooden counter separated the public from the work
area. It was across this counter that you conducted your business with the town
or Irene. Here she was less jolly, less personal and more business like, but
always cheerful. Rarely do I remember her being grouchy, but she could be.
served the village, and the town for a total of 38 years, first as
assistant secretary under Bert Saunsers, then as town secretary, and finally as
secretary treasurer. Her starting salary was $50 per month. She had
her own unique but very tidy system of bookkeeping. An examination of the
records in the town office will reveal that Irene was the annual recipient of an
excellent inspector’s report. “Miss Wright’s minute books give a clear, concise
picture of council meetings and the business conducted therein,” states one such
report. The town office served as tax collection centre not only for the town of Rimbey, but for the County of Ponoka, and Irene made a monthly trip to the
of Ponoka to deliver the take, much of which would be in cash half a century
ago. She sometimes carried as much as $10,000 in her purse with no
thought of worry or concern.
When the County of Ponoka came into being in 1943, Irene had an opportunity
to move to a position in the county office. “I made the decision to remain in Rimbey.”she told me in 1975, “and I have always been thankful that I did. This
is where my friends are. It’s where I belong.” Irene’s father, T.N. “Uncle
Tommy” Wright, remained with her for eight more years, until his death in 1951.
Irene’s mother passed away in 1934. Irene retired from her position with the
town on August 28, 1975. She was their third secretary over a 56 year
Irene’s secretarial abilities were recognized and utilized by various other
organizations in the town of Rimbey, usually with little or no remuneration. For
a time she kept the books for the Chronic Convalescent Hospital, and for decades
she was secretary and record-keeper and researcher for the Mount Auburn Cemetary
which was not far from the town office. She also took her turn as president of
the Oldtimers’ Association. Secretary for her church was another of the
volunteer positions that this busy person took on for a period of time.