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Topic: The Women of Aspenland
Article: Molly (Henderson) Tofte
Date Posted: October 2/2012
Main District: Wetaskiwin
Decades: 1890's to 1980's
Anna Amelia Henderson, better known as Molly, was born on October 2, 1899 in Merrill, Wisconsin, U.S.A. She was probably born at home, as their neighbour Mrs. Nelson was a midwife. She was the third child of Henry and Jennie Henderson.
She had an older brother and sister, Mrs. C.A. Verstraete, mother of Mrs. Jack Walker, all of Wetaskiwin. Molly had two more brothers and three more sisters, making a pioneer family of eight. The family moved to Canada in 1913 hoping to homestead good land. They farmed in the Duhamel area. Her parents stressed education and she was encouraged to do her best.
She had begun school at the age of six. In spring of 1913, Molly was thirteen years old and in the seventh grade when she arrived in Canada. She started attending a rural school whose policy it was to have U.S. students repeat their grade. Therefore, she did not advance to grade eight in June. In fall of 1913, she began grade seven again.
Unfortunately, the teacher at this school did not cover the required curriculum, so the entire class was not able to advance to the next grade. This may have been one of the reasons why young Molly determined to become a teacher, a competent one who would not allow such failures such as the one she had just unfairly experienced.
In 1914, she began grade seven for the third time; this time Molly's parents arranged for her to attend King Edward School in Wetaskiwin, where she happily passed with excellent marks.
In 1917, while still attending King Edward School, Molly met her future husband, Harold Tofte. She completed grade eleven with top marks, making her eligible to attend Camrose Normal School so that she could fulfill her dream of becoming a teacher. She began attending Normal School in 1919, and by 1920 had her first teaching position at the school in Bawlf in the Gladstone District. Her next two years were spent teaching at Vang School.
In 1923, she taught in Schultz School near Bashaw. This was a large school for all grades from one to eight, from fifty to sixty pupils. During this time, Molly coached a girls' basketball team who had an opportunity to play an exhibition game against Percy Page's Commercial Grads. Molly's girls' team won the game!
In 1928, Molly returned to Wetaskiwin, teaching grade eight girls at the Alexandra School. While Molly was away on a road trip to summer school in Victoria, B.C. with a group of friends, she was appointed principal of King Edward School, where she happily remained until her marriage to Harold Tofte on July 7, 1934.
Harold and Molly's first daughter, Jennie Belle (now married to Glen Hougestol and living in Red Deer), was born in 1936. In 1938, their second daughter, Mary Ann (now married to Richard Zeluf and living in the Bentley district), was born. Their third daughter, Lorna May (now married to Jim Durstling and living in the Pipestone district), was born in 1944.
The next year, Molly was persuaded to teach at Victory School, three miles south of the family farm at Westerose. After spending several years at home enjoying her role as wife and mother, Molly returned to King Edward School to teach grade four and five, again teaching grade seven the next year, in the same room she taught in when she left to get married years earlier, and the same room where she was a grade seven student herself. In 1955, she completed her teaching career at Lakedell School, two miles west of her home at Westerose, at the age of sixty-eight.
Sadly, Harold passed away on June 24, 1966, while tending to his cattle. Molly continued her interest in students in retirement, tutoring anyone who required it. She loved to travel, and those who were privileged to travel with her found her an interesting and enthusiastic companion. She returned to her birthplace of Merrill, Wisconsin, in 1977 and was thrilled to see the beloved maple trees she remembered from her childhood.
The family remember her fondly as a wonderful, generous and gracious lady who was an inspiration to each member to strive for success in whatever field they chose. They were all proud of her, especially when they meet former pupils who spoke well of her.
Information compiled in 1996.
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