The Wetaskiwin and Area Lodge Authority (WALA) has overall responsibility for the operation of the seniors’ lodges in Wetaskiwin and surrounding area.
The lodges provide housing opportunities for one of the fastest growing segments of our population. Our lodge residents are provided with comfortable accommodations, meal service, laundry options, plus a host of additional services which contribute to an enjoyable standard and quality of life.
It is the responsibility of WALA to assess the adequacy of the facilities that we provide for seniors. To that end, we receive regular survey data regarding the opinions of our residents. We also take the initiative to support new construction and renovations as required.
Meet Birdie Walker
When Peace Hills Lodge first opened five years ago, Birdie Walker helped cut the ribbon.
“It was a beautiful, sunny day but very windy,” she remembers. “Sherry, the Activities Coordinator asked if I would help in cutting the ribbon. I felt very honoured to be asked.”
Born in Missouri, Birdie was five when she and her family moved to Canada. They started a farm in Brightview where she grew up until she moved into town to work. “Then I met a farmer and went back to the farm,” she chuckles.
After 23 years of marriage and five kids, her husband passed away at the young age of 49. “I guess one was enough,” she comments with a smile when speaking about never remarrying.
When her husband was alive, she remembers she was always the one who went into town if he needed something on the farm. “I would go to the machine shops and try to explain what he wanted. It was quite funny.” They also didn’t travel much, making only one trip to northern Alberta and Victoria, B.C. That all changed, though, when she got older.
She had a daughter in Scotland she visited over ten times. Her other children are all scattered, in Dubai and Canada. She also visited another daughter who lived in New Zealand. “I went around the world on my own. Stopped in Fiji when I was flying over to Australia. Went to Singapore, Egypt, and Greece as well.” She also mentions going back to Missouri to visit relatives at the young age of 85.
It’s quite the contrast to her life with her husband on the farm. When her husband passed, her middle son decided to take over the farm where he now lives with his wife and children.
Birdie then took a job cooking in Devon Island for research groups. “My daughter-in-law was offered the job but she just had a baby and didn’t want to go. So, I talked to them and got the job.” Birdie spent three summers at the camp. “I baked bread, bread, and more bread,” she laughs.
After working on Devon Island, Birdie took courses at the Wetaskiwin Hospital and became a nursing attendant, working in the old nursing home for 11 years. After retiring, she worked in several homes as a live-in caretaker. She continued that work until she moved into the lodge, but she still helps people when she can.
“I drove a friend from the old lodge to her dentist in Beaumont. First three times we went, I waiting in the reception are and then I thought, that’s dumb, I need work done and I’m just sitting here … and now my dentist is in Beaumont.”
She also poached eggs every morning for the same friend, a tradition she’s carried on for her sister who also lives at Peace Hills Lodge.
When not driving people around, she also did grocery shopping for a former nurse. She laughs again when telling the story, “It’s so hard to shop for someone when you don’t know what you’re looking for. There are so many different brands and you don’t know which one they want.”
Birdie is definitely not the type of person to sit still. She did ceramics for a while when a neighbour wanted to go to the classes and asked her to go as well. She was also involved with the Mission Church but hasn’t gone regularly since breaking her leg.
“The day I fell, I was coming out of the dining room. My daughter had given me rhubarb cake and I took it in to share. I had also gone into town to buy ice cream. So glad I didn’t fall in town, I waited until I got home to fall.”
On the quieter side, Birdie enjoys reading, mostly inspirational Christian novels. She’s also reading through the Bible again. “I try to read my bible through every year. If you get behind, it’s hard to catch up.” She’s also been watching the curling, a sport she used to play. “We won as a group in a tournament once and got a trophy. It wasn’t me who did the winning,” she chuckles. “It was my partners.”
As she finishes talking, she apologizes for her ‘soft voice,’ relating another amusing tale. “I had polio in the throat in 1953. I was in hospital for two weeks in isolation. I didn’t know I couldn’t talk. As long as I was lying down, I had a voice. But I went home to three kids, and when I tried to yell at them it didn’t work.”
As the anniversary of the new lodge approaches, it would be no surprise if Birdie is there to cut more ribbons and serve cake.