By Jennifer Cronin
Free Press Staff
A familiar face throughout the Valley, Marian Gravelle (née Albo) has deep roots in the community. Born at home in Fernie, she is the youngest daughter of Mariano Albo, an Italian immigrant who became a Canadian citizen in 1922, and Melinda (née Anselmo) born in Fernie.
Growing up in Fernie was different when Marian was a child. The children of Fernie would make their own fun. She has fond memories of skiing down Ridgemont hill, and of picking berries and ice fishing with her dad.
“Dad never owned a car. There were no fancy trails then, we rode bikes everywhere, and we did it all,” she remembers. “We used to go to Ridgemont to get clay for art to make pottery in school.”
Never straying too far from home, you would find Marian playing “kick the can” and cricket, collecting coloured leaves for a school art project or at the outdoor pool. “In those days we had a 9 p.m. curfew. When the siren went all of the kids would run home. If a second siren went, that was the signal there was no work for the men at the mine the next day.”
Marian grew up in a house on 5th Avenue and can remember looking out her window and watching the roof of the arena collapsing during the fire in the 1950s. You can hear the pride in her voice as she recalls that the community rebuilt it, and loggers and miners donated money each month from their paycheques to achieve this.
“I loved school, she shares. I remember a day when we had so much snow and the north wind was blowing and I was told I couldn’t go to school. I cried and cried. My dad bundled me up and tucked me under his arm and walked me the block and a half to school.”
In Grade 9, Marian met Bob Gravelle, then a Grade 12 student from Cranbrook. Bob was the third oldest of 12 children. They married across the line when Marian was right out of high school, and again approximately six months later in the church at the insistence of their parents.
Marian joined the law firm of Hislop, McKay and Company in Fernie in the 1960s and then moved to Graham and Company in the 1970s. In 1973, Bob purchased a logging truck and started a long career as an owner-operator.
It was during this time that Marian was encouraged to take the Notary course, being installed in 1984. In 1986 Marian opened her practice. At the time the Notary act stipulated that new practices could only be opened “in a place of need” and Sparwood fell into this category.
With the arrival of daughter Kim, and son Lance, the Gravelle’s became involved with riding club, hockey, soccer, rodeos and gymkhana, some of which was outside of Marian’s comfort zone.
“I am petrified of horses – I won’t ride,” Marian confided.
In 2000, Marian’s strength was tested with Bob’s unexpected passing, after which she continued to run his business until 2012 as well as maintaining her notary practice.
In 2013, tragedy struck when Marian’s daughter Kim passed on suddenly. Marian sums up these difficult times with a quote from her father-in-law who said, “The good Lord keeps the strong one behind.”
Marian lives in the same house she has occupied for 40 years. Today, she shares it with Reg, her partner of 14 years. Together they spend time at the lake, and love to dance. Of Fernie, Marian feels one of the things that she would like to see is a gated community for seniors.
Marian continues to serve the Valley in her role as notary. When asked about retirement, she gives no definitive answer, although she hints when the time comes it may just be spontaneous.
As a grandmother of five and a great grandmother of three, a business owner, strong community supporter and a force to be reckoned with, Marian is truly a resilient and inspirational “face of the valley.”