In 1937 when Ada Rawlins entered this world, I’m sure her family had no idea the impression that this remarkable woman would leave behind. Ada passed away this past April, just a month shy of her 79th birthday. I met with some of her family members recently to get to know Ada and although the emotions of her loss were still very much on the surface, they shared some amazing stories and memories.
Rex Rawlins, who still resides in the family home here in Chestermere, reflected on how he met the true love of his life. Rex, who was born in Trinidad but is now a proud Canadian Citizen, followed a career path in mathematics, which lead him to a career as a geophysicist. “I first met Ada in an incident in Dawson Creek. Two companions and myself were walking down the street one-day and we thought we had the right of the whole sidewalk and she (Ada) and a couple of her friends were coming the opposite way towards us. I didn’t have a parka, I didn’t even know what a parka was, so I had a big overcoat on. We walked towards them and they had to get off the sidewalk to let us pass and later on when we met again, she remember me and my coat as I was transferred to Maple Creek some time later and who should I meet in Maple Creek? She recognized my coat and me because it was coming on cold weather and she mentioned that I should have a parka. My roommate then, his girlfriend was Ada’s roommate… and that was that”.
Ada and Rex went on to live over sixty years of happily ever after and had two sons, Rey and Rab, three grandsons and two great-grandsons.
Ada and Rex moved out to Chestermere in the late 1960’s from Airdrie and she quickly became involved in the community. Eventually serving three terms as a Chestermere Councilor, Rex reflects on the things his feisty wife fought for. “There was a meeting over at the rec hall and she voiced her opinion and some people came to her afterwards and said to her ‘why don’t you run for council?’. So she did and became a councilor. She was acclaimed her second term and she ran for her third term, reluctantly, because she was disgusted. Her campaign consisted of one page that she had typed up and put up a few places – and she was elected anyway. After that she got really disgusted as it was always 6-1 votes and she had to fight for everything”, reflected Rex.
Ada was hugely responsible for getting the Chestermere Public Library in place along with her friend, Maxine McKellar. “As a matter of fact, one councilor at the time actually said ‘you don’t need a library here because the people in Chestermere don’t read'”, said Rex. But with our library now very much alive after more than 10 years, I think it’s safe to say that Ada made a safe bet.
I reached out to Maxine McKellar and Marilyn King regarding their dear friend Ada. “We both met her thru a desire to have a Library here in Chestermere. I met her in the fall of 2001 in the old town hall council chambers at a meeting she organized to put together to form a Library Board in the hopes of eventually having a Library in Chestermere. Marilyn met her 2 years later when she was at the town hall looking for the library in Chestermere (we didn’t have one yet) and Ada introduced herself and basically told her to show up at the Library Board meeting that evening. We knew we would be successful in our quest with Ada’s passion and determination leading us. She was a very passionate and determined woman who wasn’t afraid to speak her mind! She was definitely an integral part of us having our very own Library here in Chestermere”, says McKellar.
Marilyn King added, “As far as I’m concerned Ada was the main reason I got involved with the library. I was already persuaded that the community of Chestermere needed a library and was shocked 14 years ago to find there wasn’t one. The day I went on a hunt for it (the library), I met Ada Rawlins who told me about a group that were meeting to get something started. Her passion showed through and she had the knack of drawing like-minded people. The fact that our library is now so successful is a credit to her passion and determination. I was shocked to hear she had passed away”.
Not only did Ada fight for the library, but also to get a spray park built in Chestermere – which is a fight that many residents over the years have tried to get implemented in our city and have yet to win. Her family said that Ada even secured a grant for the construction of a spray park, but those funds ended up getting reallocated to John Peake Park – something that Ada was less than happy about.
She was also very determined to bring commercial and industrial businesses to Chestermere, and her family said that her fellow counsellors shot her down constantly on this. “The majority of them felt that Chestermere was to remain exclusive and upscale and they fought her every time she brought it up”, says Rex.
Ada then threw her hat in the ring for Mayor and Rex says that not one of her fellow counsellors supported her and she was defeated by our current Mayor, Patricia Matthews. “She simply said ‘that’s life’. She was a very understanding person – far more understanding that I would have been”, laughed Rex. Despite no longer being on council, Ada stayed very active in the Chestermere community.
Ada took her political passions much farther than Chestermere as she was involved in both Provincial and Federal politics. Meeting everyone and befriending everyone from Ralph Klein, to the Queen, to Peter Lougheed and many many more– Ada was well known in all political circles and will now we dearly missed.
Known for her quick wit, passion for her community, love of politics and a deep love of her family, it goes without saying that her family, friends and community will miss her dearly. Rex added, “Since she passed, I’ve spent a lot of time looking through her paper work and the things that were written about her and I don’t know how she did it all. The family, her work, her friends the community…. I didn’t realize who she really was and what she really had done in her life until she was gone. There are days I wish I could have gone with her”.