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Zelma was born July 8, 1924, to Lura and Bill Carlson in the Medicine Hat Hospital. She was the youngest of four children; now a baby sister to Norma, Dean, and June. Mother Carlson was not too well at the time so she let one of the good neighbours care for her new baby for some time. When her mother regained health sufficiently, her father went to bring her home from the neighbour. By this time the neighbour had become quite attached to the baby and was quite upset that he wanted to take her home. The neighbour proposed some trade in exchange for the baby and this very much upset Bill. The trade was not an option and Bill took Zelma home to be with the rest of his family.
The Carlsons met and became friends with Pastor Peter Rick a Seventh-day Adventist evangelist. They were baptized into the church and Bill moved his family to the Peace River Country where he worked as a colportuer selling books. This happened in the early ‘30’s and when the depression hit it was difficult to sell books when people had little money, so they moved further north where Bill took out a homestead.
In 1938 Bill's brother passed away so the family moved to southern Alberta to take over the operation of his brother’s farm. While their father was busy farming, the children (in addition to attending school) helped their mother with the household chores since she had suffered a stroke a few years earlier. The children were taught well, not only in spiritual lines by having morning and evening worship, but also to do a good job with their chores. Zelma’s sister liked to say “if a job is worth doing it's worth getting done”; whereas Zelma would say “if a job's worth doing it's worth doing well”. She was always very conscientious and thorough in all that she did.
In 1943 Zelma left home to attend high school. She attended CJC (Canadian Junior College) now known as Burman University. To help her pay her way, she became a Colporteur during the summer months. This must have been a very daunting experience for such a shy young lady. At that time, it meant riding from home to home on a bicycle selling books all day and eating in the homes she visited AND finding a night's lodging in one of the homes as well. She said it was a good experience helping to overcome her shyness. The Lord blessed her efforts, and she was asked by the conference to be an assistant for training beginning student colporteurs the following summer.
During the next school term, she met the love of her life Tom Kay. While not attending CJC he did visit occasionally, and his cousin (Lenna McCarty White) was Zelma's roommate and she introduced them. And as they say - the rest is history. Tom and Zelma were married on December 11, 1945 in Skiff, Alberta.
They farmed near Stettler, AB. To this union were born four children: Lenna, Cliff, Warren and Nic. Zelma was a good housekeeper, always planted a large garden and canned or froze large quantities of food to see the family through the winter. However, she was never too busy to drop whatever she might be doing if she was needed to help her husband. She sometimes raised turkeys or chickens to supplement the farm income and to provide eggs for their own use, as well as for sale.
Zelma was actively involved in their church life as well, serving as Dorcas leader for several years. She also loved leading out in the Cradle Roll and Kindergarten divisions of the Sabbath school and working with Vacation Bible School. In addition to farm life and church activities she somehow found time to take children to piano lessons and drive them to and from church school, a job which she shared with another church family.
In 1965 the Stettler church was asked to take on two children, a brother and a sister, who needed a home. Tom and Zelma decided they could do that. By this time Lenna was married and Cliff was going to school at CUC. Then another lady needed a home for a grandson she was caring for, so they took him into their home as well. The children all attended the local church school. After several years the brother and sister were moved to the home of an older sister and the other boy had already found a home from another family number. About this time Tom's parents were aging and needed a home, so caring for them became Tom and Zelma's next project. It became evident after some time that grandpa needed more care and was moved to a nursing home and Grandma joined him after a couple more years.
The mid 70’s were sad times. Grandpa passed away in 1974 and Grandma in 1976. During these years Cliff had married, Judy, and now had two children, Kevin and Shara, and had left the farm to reponded to a calling to the ministry and was taking theology at CUC. He valiantly fought a battle with cancer but sadly was laid to rest in 1978. Zelma found this loss very difficult.
For many years they were foster parents to a number of children for varying periods of time, usually only one child at a time. Sometimes the child would go would be school age and so would attend the church school.
Nick was married and living in the same yard and farming with his Dad. Tom and Zelma saw this as an opportunity to spend their winters farther South out of the cold. They spent many winters in California or Oregon where they eventually bought a ranch and raised a variety of animals including wallabies, goats, and miniature donkeys. Warren was now married and raising a family of four. Tom and Zelma's children and grandchildren enjoyed several visits to the Oregon ranch.
Spending the winters in Oregon worked out very well for many years, but eventually as Tom got older they felt it was best to stay in Canada. They had moved from the Stettler farm to a Lacombe residence for their summers and opened up their home to students or family members who were attending CUC or just needing temporary housing.
In 2010 they sold their home and moved into the Royal Oak Manor where they enjoyed the company of many long-time friends and made many new friends. They especially enjoyed game nights and several other activities including the Golden Heritage Club activities, and even camping. They attended camp meeting at Hope and Bowden for many years. With advancing years and needing more assistance, it was especially helpful that Warren and Cheryl lived nearby and provided the supervision, assistance and support required.
The games room was a convenient meeting place for many family gatherings, like their 65th wedding anniversary, and Zelma 's 90th birthday. Christmas and Thanksgiving were often organized by Zelma until the more recent years when younger family members took over that responsibility. She really looked forward to these gatherings and so enjoyed seeing grandchildren and great grandchildren as they grew up. She really cherished individual visits from different family members and friends.
In 2014 Tom passed away in the hospital while recovering from surgery due to a fall at home. This was a difficult time for Zelma after nearly 69 years of marriage. She and the family were so glad that they had moved to Royal Oak and that she was now surrounded by many friends who were in many ways like extended family. Mabel Wigley especially checked on her frequently and visited her faithfully. She appreciated that so much.
With Cheryl and Warren’s help, Zelma continued to grow a garden each summer for several years even after moving to Royal Oak. She said it was good therapy and she enjoyed the fresh vegetables. She continued to drive her car for nearly a year after losing her husband but didn't really enjoy it and it soon became evident that there were enough friends and family around willing to give her transportation, so she did not replace her car after it was badly damaged in a hailstorm.
Sometime later Mom had a mild stroke that made it more difficult to live on her own. She said goodbye to her friends at Royal Oak and moved to the Lacombe Lodge where she lived for another 7 years. Once again Mabel was a close neighbour as well as several other friends from many years ago.
She always enjoyed the drives into the country to see the lush green fields of grain or the ripening harvest. One fall we went on an adventure to see the fall colors with a day trip through Rock Mountain House, Banff and then home. The colors were beautiful and the mountains as spectacular as ever. It was a very memorable day shared with my mother and Aunt Betty Tym. She spent many hours looking through the many photo albums she had completed over the years. They became her constant companions. As time progressed she wished she had labeled who was in every picture.
For several years she looked forward to travelling each fall to BC and spend a month with Lenna, sometimes flying both ways by herself.
She appreciated the loving care she received at the lodge, especially the good meals, and the beautiful displays that decorated the entrance. Thank you LeRee. She looked forward to Lenna’s daily phone calls when they would read the Messenger cover to cover. Friday evening Lenna would play the piano for her as they celebrated the beginning of the Sabbath together. Thank you Lenna for your faithful calls.
She cherished our visits several times a week, and would often ask “when will I see you again”. When we arrived, she would often say, “it is so good to see someone that is real.” Nic and Till, mom valued your visits and phone calls. She would brighten when she would tell me, “Nic called today”. And Till your Christmas box of delicious goodies you had baked for her was cherished.
Other companions were the Gathering Place and The Heritage Singers which appeared frequently on LLBN. She managed to negotiate her Roku remote so she could enjoy those programs.
I want to pay a tribute to my wife Cheryl. You took care of my mother and watched out for her in ways that I was not able too. From the bottom of my heart, I say thank you. You went way beyond what anyone expected, as you looked out for what was best for her. Searching for furniture for the move to the Lodge, decorating it attractively and making sure Mom’s hair was curled after her shower and her clothes kept her looking lovely. Three years ago, you made a little picture book of all the family, our children and grandchildren. Oh, how she treasured that book. It kept her in touch with family and gave her a way to pray for each one every day. Right to the last days of her life you advocated with the medical system to ensure she got the very best care possible. Thank you.
We were amazed that even though eight years younger, Mom outlived Dad by a few months and we were realizing that she very well may live to be 100. She had no medical issues that were threatening her life. At first, she would say “oh I hope not” but gradually she seemed to warm to the idea. But it was not to be. On April 16 she got sick, and her decline began. While without pain until the last couple of weeks she was able to sleep much of the time. We appreciate the hospital staff that were willing to join us in doing all we could to keep mom as comfortable as possible. I was honoured to spend the last night with her and was the one to discover that she had just stopped breathing in her sleep, while I was making my temporary bed that has located next to hers. She was just six weeks short of her 99th birthday.
As mother’s day was approaching, I was sitting by my mother. As I held her hand in mine, she slept peacefully, and I realized this was my last Mother’s Day with my mother. As I reflected on her life, I realized she is the kindest person I had ever known. The harshest thing I have ever heard her say was to me. I was young and had misbehaved, again, when in exasperation she exclaimed, “I hope you have a son just like you so you will know what it is like.”
Pretty mild for the harshest thing I ever heard her say.
Several adjectives come to mind in describing our mother: conscientious, faithful (to her God, spouse, family and church), thorough, giving, caring and loving. She always maintained a very positive outlook on life. She prayed for each of us and our families every day. When asked what word best described her life she said, “committed” and for a phrase, “she hath done what she could”.
When writing in a book “Reflections from a Mother’s Heart” there was a question, “What advice about life do you want other to remember?”
Here is her advice:
Happiness is not found in things.
You can be happy and content wherever you are.
Happiness is in helping others.
Whatever you do, do it to the best of your ability.
Treat little jobs as if they were important.
Determine to make the workplace more pleasant for those around you.
Have an attitude of gratitude.
Determine to be happy regardless of your circumstances and accept His grace to gain the victory.
You can work for God wherever you are by living for Him whoever you are with Attitude is important.
I feel confident in saying that I’m sure it would be her wish for us all to reunite one day in heaven.
Zelma’s memory will be cherished by her
Daughter: Lenna (Garth) Cordett of Lake Country, BC
Sons: Warren (Cheryl) Kay of Lacombe, AB
Nic (Till) Kay of Lloydminister, AB
Daughter in law: Judy (Yvon) Caza of Ponoka, AB
Kevin (Tina) Kay of Cochrane, AB
Shara Kay of Victoria, BC
Tamura (Kevin) Oberkramer of California
Tim Cordett of California
Trina (Keenan) Hosking of Lacombe, AB
Brad (Holly) Kay of Lacombe, AB
Rachelle Tong of Edmonton, AB
Cristy (Ryan) McCrery of Idaho
Kyle (Janelle) Kay of California
Devon (Alex) Kay of Red Deer, AB
Jared (Mellisa) Kay of Forestburg, AB
Jessie Kay of Hanna, AB
Jordon Kay of Castor, AB
Nineteen Great-Grandchildren as well as many nieces and nephews.
Zelma was predeceased by:
Her husband: Tom
Her son: Cliff
Her brother: Dean
Her sisters: Norma and June
A family Graveside Service will be held at the Woodland Cemetery in Botha on Monday morning, June 5th followed by a Memorial Service at 2:00 p.m. at the College Heights Seventh-day Adventist Church in Lacombe. The service will be livestream broadcast - the video link is available below.
Memorial donations are gratefully accepted to A Better World - Canada.
A Better World - Canada
#103, 5033-52 Street, Lacombe, Alberta T4L 2A6,