Long-time Fernie resident Emma Chala celebrated her 100th birthday on Oct. 13

Fernie resident celebrates 100th birthday

Emma Chala celebrated her 100th birthday on Oct. 13.

Emma Marie White was born at home on October 13, 1915.

Emma’s father was a miner and the family lived in Michel where her father’s job was  working with the horses that brought coal out of the mine.

Emma’s daughter Lois Halko said that at one time her grandparents had moved back to the Ukraine with their children but after five years they returned to Natal.

Emma was raised in a log house without running water or bathroom facilities although it did have electricity.  She recalls enjoying playing with a doll purchased from the Eaton’s catalogue and cycling around the yard and skating.  She said that back then children didn’t have toys like they do now, fun was made climbing hills, picking flowers and enjoying an ice cream cone when the wagon came around.

Emma attended school in Natal until grade eight which was the accepted norm at the time and at age 16 went to work as a waitress at the Michel and Alexandra Hotels.

She married John Chala in 1935 and they built their first home on the outskirts of Natal also known as “Little Chicago.”  Their two children, Lois and Allan were born at home.

Emma loved to accompany her husband fishing and to picnics but family has always mattered most, she was very pleased with the arrival of grandchildren, Jason, Jennifer and Mark and when they were older welcomed their spouses Karen, Cory and Stacy. The highpoint of her life now is her great grandchildren, Madeline, Emma, Charlotte, John, Paul, Adam and Callie.  Emma looks forward to their visits to Sparwood and in the past two months has travelled to Calgary and Lethbridge to visit with them.

Her family says that “Emma was the ultimate homemaker. She cooked delicious meals, often entertaining friends and family over a homemade dinner. She later taught family members to make Ukrainian and Slovak favourites such as perogies and borscht, She loved to share recipes with others. She baked often, excelling in sweetbreads. She sewed clothing for herself and her daughter. She was an immaculate house cleaner although keeping a clean house in a coal mining town was a challenge, especially in the 1960s. Emma and John moved to Sparwood in 1969. Through the many tributes paid to Emma, it stood out that she has many great qualities, including  being  a peacekeeper,  a helper, compassionate, loving social  parties with friends and isn’t  extravagant, loved reading novels and recipe books and even now at 100 years of age keeps current with local, Canadian and world news. And with the exception of moving to the Ukraine for five years in the early 1920’s has lived in this one community all of her life.

This lady has seen many changes in her life but one thing has been constant in hers, her love of family, friends and community, her integrity and gratitude for life in general. Congratulations Emma, Happy 100th Birthday.


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