Red Deer lost two vibrant cultural leaders within two weeks with the deaths of Sadie Braun and Carole Forhan.
Braun, a pianist and founder of the Red Deer Chamber Singers, died on Tuesday at age 94. Forhan, co-founder of Red Deer Players and a long-time member of Central Alberta Theatre, succumbed to cancer on Oct. 24 at the age of 74.
Both women were described as upbeat trail-blazers who freely gave of their time and talents to boost Red Deer’s cultural scene.
Braun, a Manitoba native, nurse and piano teacher, got involved with the The Waskasoos barbershop singing group after arriving in Red Deer with her family in 1973.
By 1976, the mother of three had transformed the group into the Red Deer Chamber Singers, expanding membership and repertoire to include everything from Renaissance to contemporary selections.
The group held a 40th-anniversary concert last spring that ended with a mass choir of present and former members. Braun’s daughter, Sharon, who took over leading the Red Deer Chamber Singers about five years ago, said her mother loved seeing and socializing with people she had worked with through the years.
Sharon, a respected local musician and opera singer, said Braun taught her singing and encouraged her love of music. Dale Dickau, executive-assistant of the Red Deer Symphony Orchestra, described Braun as “a wonderful, very warm person,” who helped diversify Red Deer’s culture scene.
Forhan arrived in Canada when she was 14 with her family from Northern England. The mother of three lived in Ontario, Quebec and Drumheller before arriving in Red Deer in 1992 with her husband, Barry Forhan, who survives her.
The former school secretary dived into on- and off-stage roles at Central Alberta Theatre. She helped found the theatre group Red Deer Players, volunteered with CARE (Central Alberta Refugee Effort), TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), and animal rescue groups.
Her daughter, Rochelle Byiers, recalled Forhan taking therapy dog, Teddy, to visit Michener Centre residents. “She chose to be positive and busy — and she never stood still.”
“She did everything,” added fellow thespian, Debby Allan, who along with Forhan’s close friend Jan Underwood, described being inspired by Forhan’s sunny disposition, humour and kindness.
A public memorial was held for Forhan on Tuesday. Her passing follows that of several other long-time CAT members and founders over the last few years, including Mary Lou Armstrong, and Harold Truckle.
A memorial concert for Sadie Braun will be held in the spring.