Former school superintendent, provincial historian mourned

Albertans are mourning the death of historian and Stettler educator Bill Baergen.

BILL BAERGEN

Albertans are mourning the death of historian and Stettler educator Bill Baergen.

Baergen died at his Stettler home April 9. He was 77.

Baergen had a lifetime career in education — as a teacher, principal, school trustee and board chairman and superintendent — and a passion for history.

He came to Stettler in 1970 to fill the position of deputy superintendent of the former Stettler School Board. He later became superintendent of the Clearview School Division, a position he held until his retirement in 1991.

“He was very influential to me,” said current Clearview chairman Ken Checkel, who recalls that when he was first elected to the board in 1998, Baergen was the chairman.

“He was very good with people. He had a way of easing situations and making things run smooth, often using his sense of humour to lighten things up.”

Born in 1935 at Irma, Alta., Baergen was raised on farms at Irma and Vauxhall.

After graduating with degrees in education and history at the University of Alberta, Baergen earned a PhD at the University of Oregon.

He taught English and history at the high school and college levels.

Baergen also wrote curriculum for Alberta education on Canadian history.

His interest in history led him to serve as president of the Central Alberta Historical Society.

He was the author of two books, “The Ku Klux Klan in Central Alberta” and “Pioneering with a Piece of Chalk.”

The latter chronicled the history of the one-room schoolhouses in Alberta.

His work was recognized with an award from the Historical Society of Alberta for “his outstanding contribution to Alberta history.”

Retired Stettler principal and current town councillor Malcolm Fischer knew Baergen as a superintendent and through his involvement in local theatre.

Baergen was passionate about music, drama and documenting history, especially history related to Louis Riel, Fischer said.

He said Baergen was involved in many events, plays and projects connected to Riel.

For years, Baergen had a major role in the local Gilbert and Sullivan troupe and performed in the Heartland Arts Troupe Society, Fischer said.

“Bill always had a smile and looked for humour and the lighter side of issues.”

Baergen and his wife, Donna, raised their three children, Patricia, Grant and James, in Stettler.

His obituary said that a funeral isn’t planned, per Baergen’s request.

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