The sun was shining on Main Street of Wetaskiwin during the 2012 Ag and Arts Festival in Wetaskiwin on September 15th but the brightest beam to shine on the Festival stage was the smile of gratitude on Sylvia Larsen’s face. MC Brady Weiler called her up onto the stage to join Mayor Bill Elliott and MP, Blaine Calkins and soon looks of evident surprise and curiosity were replaced by a look of emotional happiness. Sylvia was awarded a national honour, the Diamond Jubilee Medal. The medal program is administered by The Chancellery of Honours, which is part of the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General.
To be eligible for this medal, a person must be a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident of Canada. They must have made a significant contribution to a particular province, territory, region or community within Canada, or an achievement abroad that brings credit to Canada.
Mayor Elliott remarked that Sylvia was an obvious choice for the medal. "Having recently received this same honor, I know how proud, and humbled, Sylvia felt at receiving such a prestigious award. Her vision, to create a Heritage Museum, and the tireless efforts of Sylvia and Helmer, to make it a reality, preserves our very proud history for all generations”.
Sylvia is the eldest daughter of George and Edith Rasmuson. She attended Offerdale and Crooked Lake schools. Following graduation from the Wetaskiwin High School she attended the U of A where she majored in Music and English. Married to Helmer Larson, as a couple, they have been committed to their community throughout the years.
During the early eighties, Sylvia was asked by City Council to organize and open a Community Museum, focusing on local history. The museum opened officially on May 20, 1986 and Sylvia and Helmer were enthusiastic workers and supporters. Sylvia retired from teaching in 2000 and began volunteering full time at the museum. Through the hard work of the couple and many dedicated volunteers, the museum earned the 2002 Museum Association Provincial Award of excellence in preserving history. In 2004, the Museum Society purchased the vacant Montgomery Department Store and Helmer, who had retired from managing Kiwanis Kourt and Manor, took on the massive task of renovating the building and constructing exhibit cases on a volunteer basis.
In 2005, Helmer and Sylvia were thrilled to be honoured with Distinguished Service Awards by the Provincial Museum Association and Recognition of Outstanding Contribution Awards by the Historical Resources Foundation. They were also honoured by the City of Wetaskiwin with Appreciation Awards. They both continue to contribute considerable time, energy and resources to the continued development of the Museum.
The Wetaskiwin & District Heritage Museum would never have happened without the vision and hard work of the Larsons who believed in community involvement and working together to 'make things happen'.
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