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Topic: The Women of Aspenland
Article: Dorothy Kathleen (Hare) Palfrey
Date Posted: October 15/2012
Main District: Wetaskiwin
Decades: 1890's to 1970's

Kay, as her friends knew her, was born in London, England on November 7, 1895. She was the second child of Jessie Camara Heyler and Arthur Hare. Her father was a dental surgeon, born in Ipswich, and worked with Jessie's father, William Heyler of Bristol.

Kathleen first attended school in Wolverhampton and then finished her education in a Methodist Girl's School on the Island of Jersey. It was here that she learned to swim, dive and play tennis. One of her greatest desires was to become a nurse. However, after her schooling she lived with a family in a chateau in France and taught English to the children. The father of the children was, at that time, a prisoner of war in Germany. As the battle lines drew nearer, it was soon time for Kathleen to return to England.

Meanwhile, her brother Theo was living in Canada and at the outbreak of the Great War (WWI) he enlisted in the 31st Battalion of the Canadian Army and went overseas with the First Division early in 1915.

It was at this time, during a family picnic, that Kathleen first met her future husband, Tom Palfrey. Theo had brought Tom, also in the 31st Battalion, to the picnic. Both Theo and Tom had seen service in France and were taking their commissions at the Cambridge University in England.

Kathleen and Tom were married in Bristol on September 15, 1916. Kay then went to live in Cambridge until Tom's Officer's Training was complete. Later, Tom was posted to Bovington Camp on Salisbury Plain, where the men were being trained to operate the tank, which was still a secret weapon. Kay lived in a converted railway carriage some distance from the camp. She described it as a cosy home with padded locker seats and colourful curtains on the many windows. It was here that their first son was born on September 10, 1917. The baby was named Thomas Reginald Palfrey, after his father and his Uncle Rex.

Kathleen's husband, Tom, went to France with the Royal Tank Corps and returned safely to England at the end of the war. Their second son, Theodore William was born on January 24, 1919 in England. It was in the same year that Kay and Tom came to Canada. Kathleen's mother accompanied them and they travelled west by train to Edmonton. Their third child, Betts, was born here. Tom was employed by the Soldier Settlement, which meant he must cover a great area of land to inspect the farms. After trying to find a house in the middle of Tom's territory and finding nothing, they decided to build a 'tent' home, downstream from the Lucas place on Bigstone Creek.

There were two 8' x 10' tents set up on a wooden floor with ship lap and tar paper walls. There was a tarpaulin joining the two tents, making three rooms, with the tent flaps opening into the central room. To help keep out the chill, there was a framed door and three oil heaters. This was to be a temporary dwelling until a more suitable home could be found, but they stayed there until young Tom was to go to Kindergarten.

They then moved to Wetaskiwin to a house on Lorne Street. They were just getting adjusted to their new dwellings when Kay's husband was transferred to Daysland. On their way to their new home in Daysland, their moving van broke down and they had to spend the first night on the floor. Kay would not go to a hotel because her son Bill had the measles and was contagious. Their fourth child, Biddy, was born in Daysland. The family returned to live in Wetaskiwin in 1928 and remained there until 1962, when they bought a house in Victoria.

The family was very much involved with the Church of England, now known as the Anglican Church. In 1929, when Kay's daughter, Betts, became a Brownie, the local Girl Guide Association needed a secretary and Kay reluctantly took the job. She continued her lifelong interest and service to the Girl Guide Movement in many capacities wherever the need arose, at the Local, District, Division, Area, Provincial and National levels, until the end of her life in 1973.

During WWII, Kay was kept very busy, recruiting women to assist in the many needed ways. As she was a WWI soldier's wife, she knew what had to be done by those who lived far away from the action. The ladies were kept busy rolling bandages, sewing pneumonia jackets and knitting socks, sweaters, balaclava helmets, rifle mitts, etc. with materials sent in by the Canadian Red Cross Society. Like many other local women, Kay took her sewing machine to the Red Cross rooms above the Montgomery's store and helped to make these essential items. The Red Cross Blood Donor Clinics became her greatest interest. She convened every one held in Wetaskiwin in those first few years. At one clinic, the number of donors was over seven hundred, a local record.

Both sons became professional soldiers and were overseas during WWII. Like many other mothers with sons overseas, Kay sent many letters and parcels of non-perishable food to family members in many parts of the world. In spite of all her commitments, she managed to fulfill the responsibilities of the I.O.D.E Regent during those years.

Kathleen served as Alderman on the Wetaskiwin City Council for seven years. Her chief interest on Council was local welfare, before the Provincial Government provided Social Assistance. Many people were involved with Civil Defence during the Cold War and this was a part of her involvement during her terms of office.

Although Kay Palfrey did not become a nurse, she earned many certificates from the St. John's Ambulance Association and kept them current all her life.

Information compiled in 2001.


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