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Alberta Online Encyclopedia

Feature Article


Written By: Michael Dawe
Published By: Red Deer Express
Article Used with permission. © Copyright Michael Dawe, 2004

One of the most popular winter pastimes in Central Alberta is curling. One of the most outstanding of Red Deer’s early curlers was Robert Barclay (Bert) Welliver.

R.B. Welliver was born in Hawkesville, Waterloo County, Ontario in December 1873. He apprenticed in the dry goods business before deciding, at age 17, to try his luck in Western Canada. He had $2.40 to his name.

He worked as a store clerk in Manitoba and Saskatchewan before moving to Red Deer in 1900. The next year, he married Irene McDermott.

R.B. Welliver was a partner in men’s wear and hardware stores, before starting a real estate and insurance business in 1906. It was a business career with which he remained for 40 years.

R. B. Welliver became very active in community affairs. He was a member of the Board of Trade for more than forty years, serving as president and later as secretary-treasurer. He was president of the Red Deer Fair Board and the Red Deer Horticultural Society. He was the founding president of the Automobile Club. He helped form the Red Deer Boy Scout Association.

He was elected to Town Council in 1910, and was acclaimed as mayor in both 1911 and 1912. He tried provincial politics, running as a Liberal. However, he was narrowly defeated by Edward Michener, leader of the Alberta Conservatives, in both the 1913 and 1917 provincial elections. The latter race was so close that Michener was only declared the victor after two remote polls by Rocky Mountain House reported.

Sports were one of R. B. Welliver’s greatest loves. He was very active with baseball and football (soccer), as a player, manager and president of the baseball and football associations. He helped bring professional baseball to Red Deer in 1912. He was an ardent golfer and served as a director of the Red Deer Golf and Country Club for many years. He was a founder and president of the Red Deer Athletic Association.

It was as a curler that he particularly excelled. He won a great many local, regional and provincial championships. He became secretary treasurer of the Red Deer Curling Club in 1907 and for several years afterwards. He later served as president of both the Curling Club and the Red Deer Rink Company, which operated the curling rink on 52nd Street.

In 1931, Red Deer put together a local "dream team" to compete in the Alberta MacDonald Brier. Skipped by R. B. Welliver, it also included George Lindsay, Joe LaFrance and Jack Fulton. Although Welliver faced the personal challenge of having lost his wife less than a month before the contest, the team did extremely well. It first clinched the Southern Alberta championship. The Welliver rink then won the Alberta Brier championship in an all night contest on February 25th, besting the Northern Alberta champs, two matches out of three. Unfortunately, things did not go as well at the national Brier in Toronto. The Welliver rink did well in the early rounds, but finished the Brier with a record of four wins and five losses.

R. B Welliver continued to curl and to participate in many other sports. He also remained very active in the community. He headed the Red Deer Community National Emergency Relief Appeal to help deal with the harsh impact of the Great Depression. He became the secretary-treasurer of the Board of Trade in 1935.

In 1940, he married Grace M. Gaetz, owner of the farm around the Gaetz Lakes Sanctuary.

On April 17, 1946, Bert Welliver suffered a stroke while sitting chatting in the Phelan Coffee Shop. He died the next day. Predeceased by his first wife Irene and daughter Audrey, he was survived by his wife Grace and his three sons, by his first marriage, Kellog (Kay), Sherrill, and Bob.

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