It is with bittersweet love and sadness that the family of Birdie Walker (nee Breshears) announce her passing on January 11, 2022, at the age of 101. She is survived by her sons, Bruce (Vicky), Brian (JoAnne), and Ken (Rouchelle); her daughter, Sharon (Ta); 15 grandchildren; and 15 great grandchildren. Birdie was predeceased by her husband, John; daughter, Linda; and all 6 siblings.
Birdie was born in Avery, Missouri, on July 4th, 1920. Her family moved about 5 years later, settling in the rich parkland frontier area near Wetaskiwin in central Alberta. In 1947, Birdie married John Walker who farmed west of Wetaskiwin. John passed away in 1970 and the farm was taken over by son Brian and his wife JoAnne in 1969. Birdie moved off the farm into Wetaskiwin in the late 70s.
Her pioneering spirit, fostered by independence and intelligence, came with a strong sense of responsibility. Her character was strengthened, at a young age, when she found and cultivated a fervent faith in God. Hardships – subsistence living conditions through the roaring 20’s and dirty 30’s, the loss of her father at age 10, polio in 1953, the loss of her husband in 1970 and oldest daughter in 2008 – helped shape her personality. But these were offset by happier times – sharing experiences with family and friends throughout her life, marriage to John Walker in 1947, the birth of 5 children from 1948 to 1959 followed by 15 grandchildren and 15 great grandchildren, and extensive travel in her ‘freedom’ years.
Although she travelled a bit as a young lady and mother, Birdie acquired a desire to explore parts of our world to see firsthand God’s creation and the history attached to it. Perhaps it all began when she travelled to Canada’s High Arctic to cook for large teams of researchers studying the environment on Devon Island. Travel also took her to Scotland (10 times), New Zealand, United Arab Emirates (Dubai), Israel, Egypt, Greece, and various parts of the United States. Some trips included visits with children or other relatives and their families.
Cooking and baking were among Birdie’s favourite activities – and she was very good at them. Perfect loaves of bread were entered in fairs and usually won prizes. When she was the head cook at the remote Devon Island research camp (3 years running in the early 1970’s), she baked hundreds if not thousands of loaves of bread. It was with good reason that she was the most popular person in camp, especially as the freshly baked loaves hit the cooling racks. At other times in her life, she was a shop keeper, seamstress and tailor, farmer, nurse, and teacher and mentor to many.
Anecdotes and stories about her life sometimes suggest a hint of mischief, but maybe that was just her independent spirit showing through. What there is no doubt about however is the sense of humour she nurtured to complement the dedication and responsibility with which she governed her life.
In 2013, Birdie was inducted into the Wetaskiwin Historical Museum as an honoured Pioneer Woman. This momentous occasion brought her much pride and joy. Most of her family members were on hand to witness the induction and celebrate with her.
In the latter stages of her life, Birdie resided at Peace Hills Lodge in Wetaskiwin. She enjoyed the caring independent lifestyle afforded there, and the opportunity to meet with family and friends. However, she often lamented, as she approached and then passed 100 years of age, that she had outlived most of her friends and all her immediate family.
A memorial celebration will be planned for a later date. The family requests that in lieu of flowers donations be made to Diabetes Canada or to a charity of your choice.
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