This week, I’d like to take a brief look at a particular fellow who I had the honour of knowing rather well, and greatly respected.
Dr. William (Bill) Baergen was born in Irma, Alberta in 1935. He grew up on farms at Irma and Vauxhall. He received a graduate degree in education and history at the University of Alberta.
He also received a PhD at the University of Oregon in 1982. He explained to me one time the unique way he earned his education. Apparently a practice that was available at the time, was that once he received certain certification as a teacher, he’d spend the school year (or at least part of it depending on what as available) teaching, and then in the summer/off time, he’d continue working towards his degree(s). Almost a sort of apprenticeship in education.
As a teacher, Bill was able to teach both high school, and college level class in History and English.
My dad actually first met Bill Baergen years ago in Brooks when my dad was fairly young. My grandfather was an experienced teacher when Bill and his wife were in Brooks, and the Beargens were invited over to the Ellis’ from time to time. When my parents came to Stettler, my dad was very happy to learn Bill lived here as well. Among his long career in education, Dr. Baergen served as superintendent in Stettler, and board chairman of the Clearview School Division.
Dr. Baergen was a long-time member of the local theatre group, often appearing in performances put on by the Gilbert and Sullivan group, including touring productions.
Over the years, he would also be affiliated with many other organizations. He was a strong supporter of the local tennis club, and spent many years maintaining the courts, and bringing in special tournaments with various leagues.
He also served as president of the Alberta Historical Society. Not to mention wrote a curriculum on Canadian history for Alberta Education.
Bill was a tall man who was very lanky, but rather distinguished.
I remember one time he was showing me photos of one of his many, many, many, many hunting trips, and he easily towered over his hunting buddies.
A tall, thin man dressed in bright orange beaming with the biggest smile you’d ever seen in your life.
Dr. Baergeen wrote many things over the years. He co-wrote a book on the Klu Klux Klan in Central Alberta, that he said was an uneasy, but interesting experience.
Bill wrote Pioneering with a Piece of Chalk. A book I heavily rely on for my rural one-room school research.
For many years, the charming, and warm-hearted man, traveled the province (and I believe other provinces) doing a re-enactment of Louis Riel’s powerful speeches during his life, and legal trials.
Years before this, he played the ill-fated Metis leader in a two-act play. The play was unique in that it was performed at the Stettler Museum courthouse.
The audience sat in the gallery. I am very glad I was able to attend.
Carson Ellis writes a regular local history column for The Stettler Independent.