By Jennifer CroninFree Press Staff
I am constantly amazed by the diversity of our community, and have come to realize the more I know, the more I want to know. Having had the opportunity to learn from some of our early residents, I took the opportunity this past week to sit down with one of our younger “locals.”
Laurelle Armstrong (née Scarpelli) was born an only child to John Scarpelli and Jolene Scarpelli (née McKay).
Laurelle’s father John came to Fernie when he was 18 from Italy. Sponsored by his uncle, he worked in the Elko Sawmill, sending money home and saving up enough to eventually sponsor his widowed mother and two brothers to also come to Canada.
When she was a child, Laurelle’s parents owned TJ’s Auto body, and her father was a race car driver, racing the quarter-mile super comp dragster, and then eventually buying a stock car and taking part in roundy-round racing. Laurelle recalls spending time at the shop every day after school helping her mother out in the office, and traveling to the “circuit” every weekend. During this time she worked on engines and did everything at the racetrack. She remembers this as being a “very cool childhood.”
Laurelle was raised in a house on 5th Avenue, and then moved with her family out to Dicken Road. She attended CL Salvador Elementary School, and was in the first graduating class at the new Fernie Secondary School. Laurelle was an avid figure skater from the age of eight until 18 at which time she hung up her skates.
After leaving high school, she took training to become a hairdresser, but found this was not for her, and decided to attend the College of the Rockies to train as a residential care aide. With this certification she was able to secure a position with Rocky Mountain Village where she has been employed on and off for the last five years.
As a mother of two young children, Cruz, age 5, and Kash, age 4, Laurelle has limited her work to casual hours, working two to four shifts per month.
“I have the kids in a million activities; swimming lessons, gymnastics, both in soccer, and in the winter Cruz plays hockey and they both take part in Can Skate,” Laurelle shares. She elaborates, “I just want the kids to take in Fernie and its easy-going atmosphere, to grow up and take in everything it has to offer.”
In 2008, Laurelle started dating Ryan Armstrong whom she had first met when she was four years old. In 2014, after the children were born, they were married at Birch Meadows in a celebration for the family that Cruz referred to as “our wedding.”
Laurelle feels fortunate that she and Ryan have been able to buy her “Nona’s” house. She would like to see the price of housing in Fernie go down.
“Young people can’t afford to buy homes here. If prices would go down, more young families could move here,” she noted.
Laurelle is unable to hide her passion for Fernie. She sees the people of Fernie as more open to change now.
“It has grown and developed and has become more accepting. It is changing for the better.”
With this change, she feels it will give her children the opportunity to experience more things, not living within deadlines and limits, which will allow them to spread their wings.
“I will live vicariously through them,” she laughs.
As in many small towns, there are limited options, however Laurelle feels this is changing. People get put in categories in high school and judged, and these perceptions stick for life no matter what changes you make, this is what is remembered. She feels the addition of another choice for high school is a positive thing.
With her positive outlook regarding change and growth, Laurelle is one of the fresh “faces of the valley.”