When Nellie Watson turned 90 her friends sang the Scottish song “Keep Right on to the End of the Road.”
“And that’s what I hope to do,” said Watson to a standing ovation after being honoured along with Red Deer’s Elizabeth Plumtree with Lifetime Achievement Awards at the 9th Annual Women of Excellence Awards Gala on Wednesday night.
Watson was recognized for her decades of volunteer work with the Brownies, Olds College, Multiple Sclerosis Society of Central Alberta and 4-H, among others.
Her mailing address may say Eckville, she said, but she is a proud resident of the Everts district. About 40 km west of Red Deer, it was once a significant village and the only stopping point between Red Deer and Rocky Mountain House, added Watson, who has been deeply involved in collecting the history of the area in two books.
The Everts Ladies Community Club — of which she is a chartered member — is still going strong after 67 years, she said in her speech at the Sheraton Hotel Red Deer.
She thanked all of those who have helped her over the years, including her family and late husband of 69 years.
“My motto has always been, if you believe you can, you’re halfway there,” she said. “By gosh, I’m almost beginning to believe that,” she said to laughter.
Plumtree was honoured for her many years of community work, especially her decades associated with Cronquist House. She and husband David were among the dedicated group that saved the historic home and oversaw its move to Bower Ponds in 1976.
“I’m absolutely amazed. I’m really thrilled,” she said, shortly after picking up her award. She was also honoured in the arts, culture and heritage category.
Plumtree and her husband came to Canada with two children from Nottingham, U.K., in 1973 and, besides a short 10-month stay in Toronto, have lived in Red Deer since.
“We came from a big city and moved to a small town of about 30,000 people. I wondered where on earth my husband had brought me to,” she said.
“We settled in and we started volunteering. I find that volunteering is the best thing you can to make friends and do work in the community.”
Her many years at Cronquist House have been memorable. One day the phone rang and she was asked if she wanted to have Hockey Day in Canada at Bower Ponds. Another time, the caller was from the Soviet embassy in Ottawa asking if she would like to host a touring company of Ukrainian dancers at a time when that county was part of the U.S.S.R.
The awards are organized by the Red Deer and District Community Foundation. Red Deer Advocate is presenting sponsor.
Other award winners include:
Agriculture: Jennifer Blair
Arts, Culture and Heritage: Elizabeth Plumtree
Athletics, Recreation and Fitness: Monica Morrison
Business and the Professions: Dr. Katherine Atchison
Community Building: Kelly Tibbets
Education and Training: Kathleen Finnigan
Entrepreneurship: Melanie Warren
Environment: Blayne West
Health and Wellness: Cherilynne Purpur
Human Services: Beverly Keeshig-Sonnias
Young Woman of Excellence: Poshika Dhingra