Abigail Alvera (Bergen) Fonteyne and Elsie (Jones) Baker will be inducted into the Women of Aspenland Exhibit at the Wetaskiwin & District Heritage Museum on October 20 at 2:00 pm along with Cecelia Rose (Lilly) Enman and Effie Jean (George) Roper.
ABIGAIL ALVERA (BERGEN) FONTEYNE
For over 40 years, from her graduation from high school until her death in 1970, Abigail Fonteyne taught piano lessons to the budding musicians of Wetaskiwin and area. She also played pop and ragtime with dance bands and entertained family and friends as far west as Ma-Me-O Beach.
As a piano student of Miss Florence Kelly, she took exams in musical theory and piano from the Associate Board of the Royal Academy of Music and the Royal College of Music of London, England, so was very well qualified to teach. She also encouraged her four children, Warren, Darol, Lorne, and Lois, to develop their musical talents, including her sons taking dance lessons from Jean George and entertaining to her piano accompaniment at Lacombe and at the Ponoka Stampede.
Although it is said of Abigail that music was her life, she also enjoyed curling, bridge, bingo, gardening, quilting, sewing, playing games, was an active member of the Catholic Women's League, and wrote poetry. She was a multi-talented lady.
Abigail was born in 1906, the third of 10 children born to Emma Olstad and Nels Bergen, who married in 1901. Nels Bergen came from Sweden to Michigan to Alberta where he was ordained as a pastor for the Western Baptist Union at Innisfail in 1899. He was briefly in Wetaskiwin before moving to Wisconsin that same year. In 1909 the family returned to Alberta, where Bergen was pastor of the Swedish Baptist Church in New Norway until moving to Wetaskiwin in 1917. In 1926 Abigail married Arthur Fonteyne. They farmed north-east of Wetaskiwin and had four children, Warren, Darol, Lorne, and Lois. In 1947 the Fonteynes moved into the City of Wetaskiwin where Arthur was an alderman in the '50s.
ELSIE (JONES) BAKER
Elsie (Jones) Baker is one of those special people who have the natural musical talent and ear to be able to teach themselves to play the popular music that people most enjoy singing and dancing to. Born in 1930, as a child, she taught herself to play the organ which her grandparents had left behind when they returned to England. In the 1970s she learned to play the accordion. In 1951 she married Dave Baker, another self-taught musician, and her parents gave them money to buy a piano as their wedding present. Their children remember falling asleep to the music their parents played to unwind after a hard day's work.
The young couple lived on the Baker farm near Bittern Lake, and their income in the early years was primarily the two to five dollars Dave earned each night he played his saxophone at community events and celebrations, and the cheques for the cream from their three milk cows. In 1966, Elsie returned to working in a bank, this time at CIBC in Wetaskiwin, and the family moved to Wetaskiwin in 1974. Dave continued to play for country dances throughout a wide area, switching to a vibraphone after surgery for lip cancer left him unable to play the saxophone. Elsie retired from the bank at the end of 1989, and joined Dave in playing for small local events such as birthday parties, anniversaries, some weddings and in community halls as well as in the Auxiliary Hospital and seniors' homes. Their entertaining and assistance to others was recognized in 1991 by the Wetaskiwin Chamber of Commerce award for Citizens of the Year.
Elsie and Dave had four children, the “4 Bs” Barbara, Brenda, Robert, and Beverly, born 1954 to 1958. They remember their mother always caring for others, from their father's bachelor uncle living with them while his two broken arms healed, to daily visits with Dave's mother in long term care, to long days with Dave when Parkinson's disease necessitated his living in long term care until his passing in 1998. Elsie moved into Luther Manor in 1997 and was soon involved in arranging the musical entertainment for the “Birthday Party of the Month” and organizing a Hymn Sing every other Sunday from September to June as well as providing transportation for many who need it. She also plays piano, accompanied by Lou Paradis on the banjo, at the Wetaskiwin Hospital three times each month, and arranges the Hymn Sing at the Peace Hills Lodge every second Monday from September to June. Elsie's gifts in music and caring remain fully used.