DENNIS, Elsie Dagny
November 4, 1918 – September 18, 2009
On Friday, September 18th, Elsie passed away peacefully at the Stettler, Pine Ridge Extended Care facility with her family by her side. She will be lovingly missed and remembered by: her sister Ruth Kerbes; her children Dave (Shirley-Jo), Norman (Geraldine), and Marlene (Russell) McKay; her grandchildren Wanda, Diana (Arie) Vandervelden, Mark (Jacquie) Dennis, Sheila (Mike) Petrone, Amy (Stuart) Bergen, Corey (Liesa) and Blaine McKay (Amy Kempf); her great grandchildren Timothy, Nicholas, Kody, Emily, and Kyle; and her special niece Judy Graham and family; and several other nieces and nephews and their families. She was predeceased by her beloved husband Gordon, grandchildren Jeffrey and Christine, brothers-in-law Carl Kerbes and Jim Dennis, and sisters-in-law Joyce Cowle and Stella Johnston. Elsie was born on November 4, 1918 at her mother and father’s (and Christian Nielsen’s) home in Stanby, Denmark. A midwife performed the delivery and it was in a time where a flu epidemic raged and the First World War was coming to an end. Her father owned a farm with a small crop, a couple cows and horses. And then in the late 1920’s, Elsie’s Dad was convinced by his sister’s husband that a good life could be made in Canada. Elsie with her father, mother and sister, Chris, Ida and Ruth Nielsen immigrated to Canada on March 6, 1928. She and her family boarded the ocean liner, Minnedosa bound for St. John, New Brunswick from Liverpool, England. It took 12 days to cross the Atlantic Ocean and she arrived in Canada on March 18th, 1928. They then traveled for eight tiring days by rail to Stettler. In those days, many immigrants were sent to farms to work, so Elsie and her family traveled by sleigh to a farm near Red Willow where her mother and father were hired as a housekeeper and a hired man. As Elsie wrote in her memoirs, “I remember sleeping in a big unheated room with two beds on one side and pile of coal on the other side.” Unfortunately as soon as they arrived both Elsie and her sister contracted red measles and it was touch and go for a while. It was new beginning for the family, but a stressful start in their new land, Canada. Elsie aged nine and her sister Ruth aged seven enrolled in the Pilot Knob School. Elsie commented, “the first few days at school were very trying for us two as we could not understand, or speak a word of English!” Elsie completed her schooling and in 1939 moved with her family to the Vandeford place where she got a job keeping house. In 1940 she married Gordon Dennis. Her family moved to Calgary in 1941 where her mother and father lived for 28 years. Her sister, Ruth married Carl Kerbes in 1949 and she currently resides in Burnaby, BC. Ruth has one child, Judy and three grandchildren, Brett, Torben, and Katrin-Liis. Carl passed away in the early 1980’s. After marrying Gordon, Elsie lived in Stettler for the rest of her life. In a video tape that her daughter produced about her Mom’s life, she said “that Gordon and I were never apart” and that it was so hard to be with out him when he passed away in July of 1991. Elsie and Gordon ran and operated Dennis’s Greenhouses for 28 years and in the early days, Elsie commented that before they constructed their large greenhouses, they actually planted the plants in the ground and customers came and dug up those plants they wanted to purchase. Previous to this business, Gordon farmed the land, did carpentry work and then eventually took up the planting business. Elsie was always very proud of her children, Dave, Norman and Marlene (McKay). Dave obtained his carpentry certificate and worked in his trade until he obtained a job with the Town of Stettler as a Development Officer. He retired 2 years ago and now serves on Town Council. Norman worked in the Engineering section and eventually rose to the title of District Superintendent for Gulf Oil in Stettler. Norman also gained valuable experience while working in Russia for 4 years and now works as a Petroleum consultant. Marlene worked in a bank, raised two children, (Corey and Blaine) and then worked with a fitness center and mail delivery service in Stettler. Elsie considered family very important and was so happy that she and Gordon could provide her children with land to build houses on acreages down Emerson Avenue. Eventually her children had children (Elsie’s grandchildren) and “Grandma’s Place” became the central stopping place for juice and cookies after school. The concept of, “coffee time” became a ritual that began during the greenhouse days for a break from planting around 3:30 p.m. and continued throughout Elsie’s life for family to gather around. She commented that she had the good fortune to watch her 7 grandchildren grow-up and when she looks back she said it was an important part of her life. Her grandchildren from oldest to youngest are Wanda Dennis (Environmental Manager living in Calgary), Diana Vandervelden (Human Resources Consultant living in Calgary), Mark Dennis ( Fire Chief in Stettler and father of two sons, Kody & Kyle), Sheila Petrone (Mother of three children, Timothy (12), Nicholas (9) and Emily (6) living in Cochrane), Amy Dennis (IT Project Manager living in Calgary), Corey (Sports equipment & Training consultant living in Edmonton) and Blaine (Independent Contractor in the building trades living in Calgary).
“Grandma” also adored her great grandchildren: Timothy (12), Nicholas (9), Kody (7), Emily (6) and Kyle (4). They loved her back, as Great Grandma Elsie had a beautiful spirit and was always fun to be around. Elsie was an avid bowler for 45 years and always told the story of the near perfect game with a score of 418 set in 1976 at the Western Canada Roll-off held in Red Deer. As all her children and grandchildren can attest to, Elsie was an organizer and list maker and she recorded every jig saw puzzle she completed (785), every napkin (700), every spoon (300) and all wishbones (450) collected, and then interesting lists of gifts received and other items Elsie liked to record. She loved to garden and entertain and Elsie was the center of many family gatherings around Easter, Thanks-giving and Christmas.
Elsie exemplified a woman of character and class and she was a loving wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and friend to many people who were better for have known her in their lifetime. She will be missed. Funeral services for the late Mrs. Elsie Dennis were held on Tuesday, September 22, 2009 at 2:00 PM at the St. George’s Anglican Church in Stettler, Alberta with Reverend Jack Schulze officiating. Amy Dennis presented a moving tribute from the grandchildren. Marlene McKay shared loving memories of her mom. A eulogy was given by Corey McKay, Diana Vandervelden and Mark Dennis. Elaine Hennel played for the congregational hymns and soloist was Evelyn Shursen. Family and friends gathered in the lower hall of the St. George’s Anglican Church for a time of fellowship and a luncheon prepared and served by the Anglican Church Women. Elsie Dennis was laid to rest beside her husband in the Lakeview Cemetery, Stettler, Alberta.
Memorial donations may be made to the Alberta Heart and Stroke Foundation or the Stettler Health Services Foundation c/o Stettler Funeral Home, Box 1780, Stettler, AB, T0C 2L0. Sympathies may be forwarded to the family by signing the guestbook at:
STETTLER FUNERAL HOME 403-742-3422, entrusted with the care and arrangements.