In an evening devoted to women of excellence, lifetime achievement award winner Hazel Flewwelling paid an emotional tribute to her grandmother.
A mother of 10 children and relentlessly abused by her husband, Flora Farnham found a way to survive even after a divorce left her penniless and trying to raise her four youngest children in the Benalto district during the 1930s, said Flewwelling.
Finding work where she could, the woman took a job as a cook at a sawmill. The post also put her in charge of the illegal liquor still, and her former husband used that to bring down the police on her. They gave her the option; go back to your husband or jail.
“My grandmother, God bless her, said, ‘I would go to jail rather than go back to that brute.’
“And so she did. And you know what I’m proud of my grandmother.”
Flewwelling was one of 22 women honoured at the second Women of Excellence Gala that drew more than 300 people to the Capri Hotel and Convention Centre.
A teacher for more than 30 years, Flewwelling was recognized for her tireless fundraising, endless volunteering, and for offering a powerful voice on behalf of those with chronic and mental illnesses.
“You are a force to be reckoned with,” said Red Deer College president Joel Ward.
Flewwelling, who was supported by her husband, Red Deer Mayor Morris Flewwelling, and her children, said she was deeply touched by the recognition.
“I know that all of you have a story and all of you have those causes that are near and dear to your heart. You have passion.
“Women are very, very special because women know how to work collaboratively, and I think that’s where we have our strength.”
Also recognized for her dedicated community efforts was another former teacher, Evelyn Johannson of Spruce View.
The 87-year-old has spent most of her life in Central Alberta and she was honoured for the influence she has had on so many students, filling them with confidence and bolstering their self esteem.
Johannson was introduced as a woman who did not seek the limelight, but worked for decades as a community builder and volunteer with numerous organizations and became a role model for many. She is also the mother of eight grown children, a grandmother to 18 and great-grandmother to 16.
“It’s so exciting. It’s just such a surprise for me,” said Johannson, after her name was announced as the first of the evening’s winners.
She owes much of her community spirit to her parents, she said. “Volunteering has always been a way of life for me.”
Johannson has been deeply involved in church groups, the ladies club and the Icelandic Society.
“It’s my privilege to do my share for the benefit of my country and my community.
“I am deeply honoured to receive this award,” she said, thanking family and friends who had travelled from all over to share her evening.
The Women of Excellence Awards was one of two projects set up last year by the Red Deer and District Community Foundation. Double the number of winner were honoured this year compared with the inaugural event.
The recipients in the other categories included:
Agriculture and Environment — Environmentalist Judy Boyd, broadcaster Dianne Finstad, Red Deer College instructor Sandra MacDougall.
Arts, Culture and Heritage — Poet and community arts volunteer Glynis Wilson Boultbee, musician and music teacher Sadie Braun.
Athletics, Recreation and Fitness — Fitness and lifestyle coach Colleen Manning Baumbach, Pottery studio owner and community volunteer Margaret Phelan.
Business and Professions — Public health nursing manager Andrea Thain Liptak, Career Assistance Network director Barbara Jane Sheppard.
Community Building — Sentinel Self-Storage owner May Johnson, City of Red Deer social planning supervisor Wendy Klassen.
Education and Training — Red Deer Catholic Regional School Division superintendent Paulette Hanna, Special needs consultant and volunteer Jane Proudlove.
Entrepreneurship — Real Women on the Run publisher Kim Berube, L.A. Radio Group Inc. co-owner Sonia Sawyer Schaab.
Health and Wellness — Central Alberta AIDS Network Society executive director Jennifer Vanderschaeghe, Red Deer Hospice Society executive director Brenda Watts.
Human Services — Central Alberta Women’s Immigrant Association executive director Halima Ali, Shining Mountains Living Community Services executive director Raye St. Denys.
Young Woman of Excellence — Student leader Erin Konsmo.