Stearn, Edward James

Edward was born in 1917 in Lavesta, Alberta. His parents divorced when he was young and his father, Edward, retained custody of Clifford and Edward Jr. Edward Sr. subsequently married Charlotte who had four daughters from a previous marriage.

Once Edward Sr. became aware of the opportunities for land ownership in Northern Alberta by means of homestead applications, he moved his family to an area of Bezanson known as Fitzsimmons in 1927. Life was difficult at that time for Edward Jr. and Clifford and they left home at a very young age (10 and 8) and worked for various farmers in the area to survive.

Edward Jr. enlisted with the Canadian Military in September of 1939 and served with the 8th Field Regiment attached to the 5th Canadian Armoured Division as a Gunner. The unit was transferred to North Africa and once secured, moved on to Sicily and up the mainland of Italy where they fought for quite some time. Ed also saw service in France, Belgium, Netherlands and Germany. As the regimental barber and the regimental tailor, he had a portable sewing machine that he carried with him for the entire term of the war. He was also one of the mechanics who assisted in the maintenance of the trucks and tanks. As well, another one of his duties was to build portable hot-showers for the troops whenever and wherever they set-up camp.

While on leave in Scotland, Ed met Mary “Molly” Stobie who was a nursing student in Edinburgh. They subsequently married in 1943 and a daughter, Iona, was born later that same year in Haddington, Scotland. Molly and Iona immigrated to Canada towards the end of the war by themselves as Ed had been assigned to assist with clean-up duties in Europe for months after the war ended. Molly and Iona settled in Rimbey where Ed had already secured employment as a mechanic.

When Edward Jr. was finally discharged, he arrived in Rimbey and immediately started to work as a mechanic. As Ed was very industrious, he soon opened his own welding shop where he also provided mechanic and handyman services. He was also Rimbey’s Fire Chief and Policeman as well as Councillor for the town. When Rimbey became an oil town, Ed was extremely busy and operated a highly successful business despite his Grade 3 education. His nickname was “Thor” as he was a large, strapping man who was as strong as an ox. Molly also continued to work as a nurse in various locations. Ed and Molly had four more children; Ken, Ron, Andy and Keith.

In 1981, Ed and Molly moved to Salt Spring Island where they were employed as caretakers for a man by the name of John Olson, who owned the Strathcona Hotel, a famous landmark in Victoria. John had a 10-acre ranch that Ed and Molly lived and worked on for about five or six years, before moving to Victoria. It was an idyllic life-style as they took care of the horses, chickens and dogs and tended to the land. Their residence was the guest cottage, overlooking the water.

Molly passed away in 1998 in Victoria from melanoma that had spread to other parts of her body. Gunner Edward James Stearn passed away in 2006 from complications with Alzheimer’s which he had suffered from for many years. They were both buried in West Haven Cemetery, Victoria, BC.

Contributed by Wanda Zenner

Smoky River to Grande Prairie
Ian Skinner – grandson of Edward Stearn