Olive was born in The Pas in her parents’ house on Patrick Avenue, August 13, 1917, the second of seven children. She lived in The Pas most of her life where her parents, Albert J. and Mélina (Mélanie) LaFontaine, were early pioneers. For a time, she also lived with her parents in Wekusko, MB and Shawinigan, Quebec. While residing in Wekusko she was enrolled in the Sacred Heart School in The Pas and boarded at the convent of the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary. At Sacred Heart School she was taught in English and French, and was fully bilingual.
After Grade 8, she enrolled in the Commercial Secretarial Course operated by Sacred Heart School and excelled in typing and shorthand. Upon completion, she accepted a court reporting job for the labour organization newspaper “Labour Journal” during local trials resulting from labour unrest. She was noticed there by The Pas Mayor C.R. Neely and was hired to be his personal secretary in the Town Office (1935-37), then located in the building now housing the Sam Waller Museum. When Mr. Neely became the town manager for the new mining town of Sherridon, MB he asked her to continue as his secretary there, and she agreed.
On April 19, 1937, Olive moved to Sherridon and, in addition to being secretary to the Mayor, she also worked for the Secretary-Treasurer of the Sherridon School District. In Sherridon she met Erik Wadelius, a violinist she had heard as a teenager on Winnipeg radio. They were married in The Pas on January 25, 1939. Two sons, Vaughn and Leif-Erik, were born in Sherridon. In 1945 the family moved to Winnipeg but relocated to The Pas in 1947 to make it their permanent home as Olive had enjoyed growing up there and was determined to give her sons the same wonderful experience. A third son, Lance, was born in The Pas. Olive worked for three and a half years as secretary for Mayor Frank Bickle of The Pas Motors Ford dealership and H.J. Bickle & Co. Insurance. In 1958 she joined the Medical Records staff at St. Anthony’s General Hospital where she continued until her retirement in 1978. Her ability with the spelling of medical terms was unparalleled.
Olive was, and in retirement continued to be, an active community volunteer. She was secretary for the first parent-organized kindergarten in The Pas in April, 1947. She joined the Ladies of the Royal Purple in 1947 and was the Honoured Royal Lady in 1961-62. She was a life member of the Catholic Women’s League since 1952. She joined the Hospital Auxiliary in 1978 and continued to serve as a regular active volunteer in St. Anthony’s General Hospital and in St. Paul’s Personal Care Home until she moved into St. Paul’s in 2011.
Olive was an accomplished knitter. Her beautiful sweaters and baby clothes were sought after by friends and family. She rarely said no to a request. She won numerous ribbons at The Pas Trappers’ Festival handicraft displays, and also won a baking prize from Pillsbury for her delicious Swedish rye bread. She was an avid and voracious reader all her life and, until later in life, a regular visitor to The Pas Library. She could knit, read, and watch television all at the same time.
After retirement, she and husband Erik spent summers at “Valhalla,” their Clearwater Lake cottage, where she planted flowers and tended a small vegetable garden. She enjoyed bingo and buying 649 lottery tickets, and in her latter years tried her hand at casino and computer poker games.
Olive had a deep sense of extended family, and she instilled strong religious and family values in her sons. She was committed to having her children receive a good education, and helped them to become interested in literacy when they were toddlers with a ritual Saturday night reading of the Toronto Star comic section. She was affectionately known as Mémère to her eight grandchildren and five great-grandchildren, who were delighted when they grew to surpass Olive’s diminutive stature.
After her husband Erik died in 2000, she moved to Valhalla Court, a facility he had helped to develop. She felt happy and safe there, but failing health required her to move to St. Paul’s Personal Care Home in 2011. She felt well cared for there. In her last few months, her battle with two broken bones wore her down, and she passed away at age 97 on June 11, 2015.
Olive was predeceased by her mother Mélina, her father Albert, her brother Arthur and sisters Jeannette and Germaine. She leaves for now her three sons, Vaughn (Rosemarie) of The Pas, MB, Leif-Erik (Charlene) of Comox, BC and Lance (Cindy) of Beausejour, MB; eight grandchildren: Sean (Erika), Kelly (Lauren), Lisa (Doug), Lara (Scott), Lori, Michelle (Evan), Nicole (Jeff) and Kyle; and five great-grandchildren: Victoria, Amber, Fallon, Griffin and Xander.
The Funeral Mass was celebrated at 11:00 a.m. June 19, 2015 at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Cathedral, The Pas, with Fr Jack Herklotz, OMI presiding, assisted by Archbishop Murray Chatlain and Fr. Robert Laroche. Music Ministry was provided by Jana Dutkewicz and Tanis Asselstine. Readers were Michelle Wadelius and Kelly Wadelius. Memories of the Heart were shared by sons Vaughn, Leif-Erik and Lance Wadelius, and great grandchildren Fallon and Xander Wadelius. Honorary pallbearers were Olive's grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The Honour Guard was formed by members of The Pas Catholic Women’s League.
Immediately following the service, a time of fellowship for family and friends was held at the Guy Hall. If friends so desire, memorial tributes in Olive's memory may be made to The Pas Health Complex Foundation, Box 541, The Pas, MB, R9A 1K4.
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