Tribute to Edith Fagan
One of the last original “Silent Partners”
October 21, 1921 to June 01, 2021
Our Beloved Little ~ “ Tiny Mite ”
Edith was born on October 21, 1921 in the Manyberries area of Southern Alberta to Emanuel & Rose (Wieland) Kleinknecht. Edith lost her mother at a very young age. She moved up to the Olds area as a teenager to live with her sister and brother-in-law, Elsie and Andy Horn and help out on their farm. Sometime soon after, she met Glen Fagan at a barn dance in the hayloft of the big, old Fagan barn which hosted dances for the community as a social event, back in the good old days where
such social gatherings were “the real deal.”
Edith and Glen were married on December 23, 1940. Their only child, Mary was born September 26, 1943. They lived in a “suite” over one of the garages at the original Fagan farm until the 50’s when Glen took a job as a Park Warden with the National Parks and Edith became a “Silent Partner” (Wife of a National Park Warden). They were originally stationed at Indian Head, Banff National Park. Access to their new home which was a cabin situated over 15 miles beyond any vehicle travel; was by horse, helicopter or in winter months by snow skis. We recall chatting with Aunt E on many occasions and with our father about the many challenges and hardships they and other pioneer families faced while living for months at a time in various remote, isolated areas of the park.
One of the more memorable and colourful stories of their adventures whilst living out in the back country was when Glen was away on Park patrol for 2 or 3 days. A huge Grizzly Bear appeared at the cabin and was intent on getting in. Eventually it was able to knock down the front door to the cabin with a terrified Edith and Mary trapped inside. As always, Edith was prepared to deal with the situation at hand and was “loaded for bear” as they say and let loose with one shot from her shot gun which fortunately dropped the big bear in it’s tracks. Unfortunately though, the big, dead bear blocked the doorway and only exit from the cabin; so they had to stay in the cabin and wait for Glen to return from patrol the next day to pull the bear out of the way with horses. Edith brought a “huge” claw from that bear back to my father, which we still have today; in witness to this story.
Edith was a very tiny woman with a very big constitution. Her family and friends have marvelled at her over the years and right up until her passing at her never ending amount of strength, determination and grit to trudge forward no matter what life or health situation was put before her. These wilderness years must have greatly contributed to the enduring, tenacious personality of this tiny, quiet, little lady. There is a book entitled “ Silent partners, Wives of National Park Wardens, by Ann Dixon; Edith’s life long friend (Warden and Yaha Tinda Ranch manager’s wife… whom turned 94 this year) The book is available through the National Park Wardens Alumni Association or online for those history buffs whom may be interested in the stories of the Pioneer Women who lived the life of the “silent partners” to their park warden husbands. We have included the excerpt from the book that pertains to Edith based on the material which she submitted to Ann. Please see this at the end of the tribute.
Glen quit the warden service when their daughter bought a resort at McLeese Lake (Williams Lake, BC area) and they moved there to help her with the day to day operation of the resort and support her in her raising and showing of quarter horses. When Glen passed away unexpectedly in January 1977, Edith and Mary sold out and moved back to the Olds area to be closer to family. First they went to an acreage East of Bowden and then bought land South of Olds. Mary had a hair salon in Olds and continued to raise quarter horses and beef. Edith helped out on the farm and worked at the Olds Co-op for many years as a cashier. She truly loved her daily interactions with the Co-op shoppers and retired from the Co-op with her 15 (??) year pin in recognition of service of which she was very proud of.
Mary suffered a stroke and ultimate, untimely passing on July 7, 2000 at the age of 56. Edith was faced with moving forward in life on her own for the first time since she had been married. So, she had a farm sale and bought a lovely condo in Whitewater Way in Olds as her new home. She spent many, very happy years there but one day called us in and announced she was “sick of cooking” and wanted to move over to the then near complete, new Mountview Lodge. She was accepted for the Lodge fairly quickly. We reminded her that if she was going to do this move she would have to undergo yet another significant downsize of her “worldly possessions” She was notorious for not wanting to part with anything, ever! For those of us involved in this task, we can all laugh now maybe… at just what went on then. This tiny, always sweet and quiet little woman sternly stood up in protest to most anything that we suggested be recycled and one thing about Edith was…. when she pointed her finger at you, she meant business!! Eventually though and with a lot of persuasion, we got her moved over to her room in the Lodge, indeed downsized. My sister and I have enjoyed taking Edith on many subsequent little shopping trips where she bought new clothes and matching shoes and accessories. Edith loved this and it should be noted that she always liked to be dressed up like a little princess and what a cute little one she was!!
During the many wonderful years she enjoyed at the lodge she went through some health issues with flying colors which would have been tough on most young folks. Such as the double hernia operation in Red Deer at about age 93. The surgeon was a little alarmed at the size of the hernias and asked her how long she had been tolerating them. She replied … “ about 10 years now” She informed him that her doctor in Olds told her she couldn’t have surgery as she would quite likely not make out it of the surgery; considering her heart issues, age, etc. The surgeon was a little taken back to say the least, at her response but was also not too willing to proceed with the operation due to her age. Instead he discussed the more feasible options to her would be some pain medication, lots of bed rest and wheel chair mobility for her future years. She didn’t agree with this plan at all and out came the pointing finger… she shortly and sternly told the doctor she would have no problems … “Just fix me so I can get out of here and get back home!” We assured the doctor that he had no idea what a tough little character he was dealing with and that we felt she would probably recover from the operation and would not be happy living with the proposed alternative. So the operation proceeded and a couple of days later Edith returned to her suite at the lodge with the arrangement of some support care by the staff until she got back on her feet. After trying to phone her to check on her a few times that evening we finally contacted the nurse on duty only to find out that she had gone down for supper on her own and was doing great and actually was involved in her regular card playing session and that was why she wasn’t answering her phone. Again, such an incredible and admirable little power house of a woman!!
When Edith’s health finally got to the point a couple of years ago, where she needed a little more enhanced care, she moved over into a lovely suite at Seasons Encore. This would be her last home. On June 1st while at the supper table, just a she lived life; she slipped away quietly and peacefully, without fuss or notice, just short of her 100th birthday.
Edith enjoyed family and friends, snow-birding in Las Vegas for many years, cards, bingo, crocheting, nature and life! She lived simply ~ Loved Generously ~ Cared Deeply.
Edith is survived by her sister in law, Elaine Fagan (Olds), her sister in law, Gail Fagan (Kamloops, BC), long time close friend and confidant, Ann Rosehill (Olds), one of the last surviving original “silent partners”, Ann Dixon Broder (Milk River, Ab.) and by numerous nieces and nephews on both the Kleinkneicht and Fagan sides of the her family.
She was predeceased by her husband and daughter, siblings Elsie, Otto and John and a some of her nieces, nephews and friends.
There will be no formal memorial service. Cremation has taken place. A private family and friend inurnment will take place On Wednesday, July 14, 2021 at @ 2pm in the Olds Cemetery where she will be with her daughter. In lieu of a formal service, my sister and I have composed this tribute in honor of and as a remembrance to, our very beloved auntie.
Many years ago, we affectionately nick-named our auntie “Tiny~Mite” and she has for many years now referred to us as “Her nieces ~ the Sisters”
We wish to thank the residents and staff at the Mountview Lodge and Seasons Encore for the years of friendship and care that Edith enjoyed and appreciated, so much. If desired, memorial tributes can be made directly to the Olds Hospital, S.T.A.R.S. Air Ambulance or a charity of one’s choice.
Heartland Funeral Home entrusted with final arrangements.
On Eagles Wings ~ “ Tiny Mite”
Forever Remembered and Adored ~ “ Your Nieces – The Sisters”
Please see the following excerpt from the book “ Silent Partners” (P. 189-190)…. content provided by Edith to Ann.
Excerpt from the Book “Silent Partners, Wives of the National Park Wardens” by Ann Dixon
P. 189 – 190 (material provided by Edith to Ann)
Edith Fagan knew how to ride a horse but really didn’t make a practice of it until she had to travel that way in the summers to arrive at her isolated home in a lonely wilderness. Her husband, Glen had just been assigned his first warden district, Indian Head, in Banff National Park. In those days the new wardens of Banff Park were sent to Indian Head to take complete charge of a district and work out their probation period at the same time. If they didn’t know how to handle horses, or how to ride, they had no other choice but to learn. Lucky for Edith, Glen knew horses and was very capable.
Life in the back country for Edith meant making their food last for a month and reverting back years to the use of the old scrub board. Mary, their only child, wouldn’t have to attend school which would be quite agreeable to any teenager but correspondence lessons would have to fill that gap. Eventually, the Fagan family was moved to Windy, another warden district which was closer to Banff but still in isolation only in a different way. Windy was situated behind a locked gate on a fire road and was at the far end of Cascade Valley.
The trio was taken by truck to Stoney Creek, the first warden station that was located five miles in from the gate. From there, it was shanks pony for 15 miles on a road that was not plowed in the winter months. Because the trail was the width of a road, the edges were quite visible, making it easy for the three skiers to follow. Edith was not looking forward to this long, tiresome trip on “those boards” as she called them. The temperature was ten degrees below zero Fahrenheit but it felt more like forty below to Edith as she secured her cross country ski bindings and started out. By nightfall they had covered a good three quarters of the journey. Edith, who had very little experience with foot travel in winter snows, could feel her feet getting sore. When Glen took her boots off, she had two large red, throbbing blisters; one on each heel. As Edith said, “If you have ever had heel blisters, you’ll know just how painful they can be.” After Glen taped both her heels, Edith felt much better and they continued on. A full moon shone down brightly on a couple of big moose that stood silently watching from the edge of the timber, as the three trudged slowly past.
At long last they stood on the drifted front steps of Windy, the house Edith was so relieved to see. With one final effort she removed her skis, limped over the hard snow and up the steps into the cold house.
Edith only lived at Windy a short time when Glen got a transfer to Kootenay Park. After Mary got married the family moved to Williams Lake when Glen quit the service. Edith moved back to Alberta after Glen passed away and lived in Olds to be near her family. Edith’s daughter, Mary passed away a number of years ago.