October 17, 2023

Image: Spirit River High School with students standing on the steps of the main entrance. Taken in June, 1934. Back far left is Jessie Edey, middle Alice Brown, far right Ethel Fildes and front far left Harry Edey (SPRA 394.09)

Regiment: R.C. Artillery
Regimental No:
Rank: Sergeant
Force: Army

John Henry Edey (always called Harry) was born in Wellwood MB on January 6, 1917. Starting school in Wellwood in 1923, he remembers riding in a van pulled by horses. When his family moved, Harry changed schools, attending the Kennedy and Fairview schools in Manitoba. In 1928 the family moved to Spirit River AB, where Harry attended Bronco Creek School, and completed Grade 8 in 1929. That fall he was one of the first students in the new Spirit River Rural High School. After completing Grade 11 in June 1932, Harry left school for a year because Grade 12 was not offered at the high school yet. However, in the 1933-34 school year he returned and was one of five students to graduate in the first Grade 12 class in the central Peace area. Harry remembers having to walk 7 miles to school in the spring of 1932 because the horses were needed for work on the land.

Harry filed on a quarter of land west of Spirit Valley: SW 2-79-7-W6, in spring of 1935. During that summer he amazingly cleared and broke 4 acres by hand using an ax and grub hoe, and horses to pull the plow. The following summer he cleared and broke another 6 acres, and in the next few years made enough improvements on his land to get a title.

Harry joined the Canadian Army in September 1941, serving overseas. First he was with the 33rd Light Aid Detachment attached to the 13th Field Regiment of the Royal Canadian Artillery in the Third Canadian Division until January 1945. Then he was promoted to sergeant, and he was transferred to the 123rd Light Aid Detachment attached to the First Canadian Armoured Carrier Regiment (the Kangaroos) with the 79th British Armoured Division. In September 1945 he returned to Canada, being discharged in October.

While in Britain, Harry met Iris Lewis who was a nurse and certified midwife. They planned to get married in June 1944, but on the day of the wedding Harry was ordered to board a ship bound for the D-Day invasion of France. Finally they were married on January 6, 1945 in Treharris, Wales, Iris’ hometown, while Harry was on leave from the war front.

Back in Canada, the couple bought land from the Veterans Land Act in 1946 near Rycroft, where they lived for 14 years. Five children were born to them: Gwyneth in 1947, twins Linda and Lorna in 1948, John in 1951, and David in 1952. The whole family was active in the United Church, and Harry served on the Board of Directors for the Credit Union and the Co-Op store. Over the years there were many modern improvement to their home and farm. They had a telephone which allowed Iris to keep in touch with neighbors and family. Harry bought his first tractor in 1948 which eliminated the need for horses to farm. Electricity was installed in 1951 which provided them with the luxuries of a refrigerator, freezer, vacuum cleaner, and washing machine. Their first car was purchased in 1952.

Tragically, in July 1959, Gwyneth drowned in the Burnt River. This event caused the family to reconsider their goals, and they moved to Edmonton the following summer. Harry pursued studies at the University of Alberta, while Iris worked for the city as a public health nurse. Completing his Bachelor of Education degree in 1963, Harry became an instructor of mathematics and statistics at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT). By continuing to take summer and night classes at university, Harry received his Bachelor of Science degree in 1969, a graduate diploma in post-secondary education in 1973, and a Master of Education degree in 1975. Harry taught at NAIT until 1982.

Although living in Edmonton, the Edeys kept their Rycroft farm, and farmed it until 1970, when they rented it out. All four children attended the University of Alberta in Edmonton.

During retirement, Harry and Iris have travelled to many parts of the world, and enjoyed spending time with their 8 grandchildren. Iris volunteered at the blood bank and at nursing homes, and Harry was involved in genealogy and history research of the Spirit River district, and St. Stephen’s Church which they attended in Edmonton.

At the time of this writing, no information was found on the passing of Harry or Iris Edey.

Chepi Sepe – Spirit River pp. 391-392, Photo p. 184
Wheatfields and Wildflowers – Rycroft and Surrounding School Districts p. 174

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this blog series. The Soldiers’ Memorial commemorates more than 1,100 WWI veterans and 2,300 WWII veterans from our region. Three dedicated volunteers have contributed over 1,200 hours to this project by researching and writing biographies. Our goal is to have all South Peace soldiers acknowledged for their service. If you know of someone who lived in the South Peace and should be listed on the Memorial, or would like to get involved by researching a local veteran, please contact the Archives.

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