Isabel Teslak (nee Air), was raised on the family farm near Yorkton Saskatchewan.
Living four miles from the country school, Isabel would either walk to elementary school, or travel by horse and buggy. Attending high school 25 miles away in Yorkton was not an option because of travel, however had it been, the notion would have been out of the question when at the age of 15 Isabel’s mother passed away. While assisting on the family farm, showing discipline, Isabel completed her high school education by correspondence.
When Isabel was 21, she married Andrew (Andy) Teslak whom she had met while in elementary school. Andy was raised on a farm, and was one of many children in a large family. As his siblings got older they left the farm, and soon it fell to him to look after. This is where Isabel and Andy would make their home for the next 14 years. During this time they welcomed their six children, Mike, Charlie, Brent, John, Kathy and Anne.
In 1970, with a downturn in farming, change was necessary. “Andy was born and raised on the farm, and was very handy. He would tackle anything; building, electric, he wasn’t afraid of any of that, and he was ready for something different,” Isabel shared. It was at this time that Andy headed west to Fernie, to work as a millwright in mining, and start a new life for his family. Isabel and the children remained on the farm for the winter. The boys helped out, and Isabel kept things as normal, even taking the boys to hockey practice. In 1971, the family would be reunited. Arriving in Fernie, Isabel was happy to be here. With the Ridgemont subdivision just built, the family moved into a new home, and the children settled into hockey, soccer and baseball. Isabel started working at the bus depot in 1972, and then the dry cleaners in 1973. She subsequently bought the dry cleaners about 6 years later. Eventually selling the business, she stayed on, teaching the new owner how to run it.
In 1997, Andy passed away, and Isabel continued to work for another two years.
Tirelessly, Isabel was not ready to slow down yet. She took a position at the Seniors Drop In Centre after retiring from the dry cleaners, and also worked at Quality Furniture, all the while raising her grandson Aaron.
These days, Isabel makes quilts and takes in sewing, doing repairs and alterations at home, a task she totally enjoys. On Wednesday evenings, she can be found at the Seniors Drop In Centre doing hand sewing and socializing.
As a T.O.P.S (Taking off pounds sensibly) leader for 10 years, Isabel attends these meetings on Thursdays, and then is off to play cards at the Seniors Centre.
Isabel has been a member of the Ladies Auxiliary (L.A.) to Branch 36 of the Royal Canadian Legion for 18 years. She, together with her fellow L.A. members, run the Saturday meat draw at the Legion, and monthly, prepare and host the L.A. Dinner, of which the proceeds go to support the local Legion branch. On Monday evenings, she runs the concession at the Ghostriders’ bingo at the Legion hall, selling homemade pie, to support the L.A.
Isabel recalls when she started volunteering at the Legion, if you were not in by early evening, you would never get a seat. She notes, “We need more people coming in the Legion, and we need more volunteers.”
As Remembrance Day approaches, Isabel has been organizing the Poppy Campaign for the local stores and scheduling the volunteers to oversee the sales. The L.A. will also prepare the luncheon for the day.
With countless hours of dedication and service to the community to her credit, when asked what she is most proud of, Isabel answers without hesitation, “my children.”
Giving unselfishly of her time to our community, Isabel Teslak is an integral “face of the Valley.”
Written by Jennifer Cronin