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Topic: The Larson Gallery Dedication
Article: Sylvia and Helmer Larson
Date Posted: January 6/2012
Sylvia and Helmer, on February 26, were formally honoured in a surprise dedication ceremony celebrating their 30 years of volunteer work to the Heritage Museum. The main floor of the museum was named the 'Larson Gallery', with the installation of a large beautiful plaque. Recognized often for their dedication, hard work, this may be considered the crowning honour in the long list of their undertakings.
Dignitaries from four levels of government were there to congratulate them and present plaques. A letter of congratulations from AMA, President Erin McDonald was read by Joan Losinski. Sylvia and Helmer's family, some from afar, in particular their five daughters, were there to help them celebrate. Many friends from the community attended to congratulate them and they have received many cards and letters from those who couldn't be present.
Helmer, a finishing carpenter by trade, has consistently renovated and built exhibits in both the old and new venue as Project Manager and carpenter. It can honestly be stated that when you walk into the museum you see Helmer's handiwork wherever you go. Through the years Sylvia has held executive positions and has earned the right to be a speaker at many conferences. She received a Silver Merit Pin in 1996 and in 2002 accepted a Contribution Award for the Museum's Outstanding Preservation of Alberta's Heritage. The Larson's received the honour of Distinguished Service Awards from the Alberta Museum Association in 2005 and also an award by the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation for Outstanding Achievement in the development of the WDH Museum.
Though the museum is celebrating its 25th anniversary, there are 30 years of dedication from the Larsons along with the many volunteers and assistants over the years. The trail began in 1980 when Sylvia attended an Alberta Museum Association conference on the authorization of Wetaskiwin City Council. MLA Verlyn Olson said it perfectly: "the City made a wise decision when they authorized Sylvia to attend one Museum conference, which resulted in 30 years of dedicated work from two people".
The public gathered and "provided support, and Helmer started building". The museum set up in the renovated Calgary Power building and on May 20, 1986 the Museum officially opened. After nearly 20 years in the old building, the society, led by Sylvia, took the major step to purchase the historic Montgomery's Department Store. Helmer took charge of the overhaul of the building and the work came to fruition when the museum opened in its present location on May 7, 2005.
The reality is that Sylvia and Helmer Larson are the perfect complement to the city and a perfect complement to each other in making the museum a reality, for which we can all be proud. Sylvia and Helmer Larson once again Thank You all for your dedication to the Heritage Museum, which has enriched the lives of this community.
ABOUT SYLVIA AND HELMER LARSON:
Sylvia, eldest daughter of George and Edith Rasmuson, attended Offerdale and Crooked Lake schools, and graduated from the Wetaskiwin High School. In the meantime, Helmer had finished school and was farming with his father, Algot and working part-time for Sylvia's father George. As the old adage goes, if a fellow works seven years for the farmer, he gets to marry the farmer's daughter! Regardless of whether Helmer fulfilled the deal, he did marry the farmer's daughter on July 15th 1955.
Helmer was a sports enthusiast who played hockey in Wetaskiwin as well as baseball with the Central Community team; a group touted for their excellence. Sylvia attended the U of A where she majored in Music and English. After the couple married, they moved to Wetaskiwin where Sylvia taught at Queen Elizabeth School for five years, while Helmer had trained in carpentry, built the couple's first home. He also continued to farm on the side.
The couple have five daughters: Sherril May, July 1960; Charlotte Rae, May 1962; Laurelle Joanne July 1964; Lorilyn Gail, October 1967; and Barbara Rita, July 1970. Sylvia began teaching music and leading school choirs, at Sacred Heart School in 1968, as well as teaching private voice lessons in her home. All five girls eventually participated in piano, dance, and singing lessons. The three oldest girls were part of Sylvia's 50 voice Wetaskiwin Children's Chorus. The choir became very popular during the 1970s, often entertaining crowds locally and in Edmonton. They won first prize in the Edmonton Kiwanis Music Festival and produced their own record in 1974. As well, Sylvia produced several North Am concerts and operettas starring the 8 to 14 year old daughters.
Helmer continued in the construction business, eventually forming his own company, Larson's Cabinets, and with a small crew built many local buildings, He became well known for his high quality finishing carpentry of cupboards and interiors. Through the years, Helmer and Sylvia were active volunteers in the many groups in which the girls participated. As well, Helmer was a volunteer with the Kiwanis Club, The North Am Races Committee, and assisted in many capacities with the production of Sylvia's North Am musical programs.
In 1980, the couple was asked by the Kiwanis Club to organize a Music Festival for Wetaskiwin and County, and this local festival is still going strong today. Helmer filled the position of the first Committee Chairman and Sylvia was Executive Secretary for five years.
After leaving elementary school teaching, Sylvia became an instructor for Alberta Vocational College in Wetaskiwin while continuing to teach piano and singing students in her studio at home. Helmer took over Joe Aboussafy's Hardware, which eventually became known as Link hardware.
One by one their daughters grew up and left home, received post secondary education, married, and had children: Sherri: B Ed, married Steve Ashworth and had Jordan and Dylan; Charlotte: SAIT Graduate, married ColinWagenaar and had Carly and Evan; Laurelle: BSc MA, married Graham Brawner and had Zachary and Megan; Lyn: Investment Bookkeeping, married Trent Phalen and had Cooper and Brooklyn; and Barb: McDonald's Regional Manager married Dean Rurak and had Tayz and Jett.
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 holding many positions through the years. Sylvia retired from teaching college 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 commit a great deal of time, energy, and resources toward the development of the Heritage Museum, documenting and displaying the history of the community they love.
Their daughters are now involved with their families and careers: Sherri, in Edmonton, Charlotte, Laurelle, and Lyn in Calgary, and Barb in Sherwood, Oregon where the family moved 2 years ago when her husband accepted a position at Columbia Sportswear's head office. Family time continues to be of paramount importance to Helmer and Sylvia and yearly highlights include Christmas with the whole family in Calgary and spending time together at the cottage at Ma Me O Beach in the summer. Barb, Dean, and the boys travel home for Christmas and a summer holiday each year, a testament to the family's close ties.
In addition to spending time with the family, Sylvia and Helmer enjoy travelling and often attend the Canadian Museum Association conferences, most recently journeying to London ON and before that, St John's Nfld.
On behalf of Wetaskiwin Online I am pleased to offer these historical articles from the Wetaskiwin and District Museum for all our online viewers.
Should you have feedback regarding any of these articles please contact the Museum using the information further below.
Wetaskiwin & District Heritage Museum
5007 - 50 Avenue
Wetaskiwin, Alberta T9A 0S3
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