Neil and Sadie Ross – Community Builders

By Ann Smith

 

Neil McKinnon Ross, the fifth child and youngest son of Neil Ross, met and married Sara (Sadie) Stanton in 1937.  They would live their entire forty-year married life in St. Albert. In the course of that partnership, they would produce six children and contribute significantly to the quality of life in their community.

Neil Ross Sr. owned a dairy farm northwest of St. Albert and Neil M., as a consequence of a childhood spent on a working family farm, would grow up to be a man possessing an entrepreneurial spirit, solid business acumen and the ability to manage a wide range of equipment.

These qualities would lead him to work as a teamster with his own horses in the early construction of the Edmonton-Jasper highway, later as a heavy equipment operator on the same highway and, eventually, to create his own small trucking business hauling freight, milk, groceries, coal and gravel in the St. Albert area.

Prohibited from active military service as a result of a childhood bout with polio, Neil hauled freight for the American army during the construction of the Alaska Highway in 1941-2. In the post-war boom in Alberta, Neil got an opportunity to go into the oilfield trucking business in the Redwater fields in 1949.

From 1949 through 1967 Ross Truck Service became a major oilfield trucking company, with a 40 tractor fleet specializing in hauling pipe, cement, drilling mud and other equipment and material related to the production and distribution of oil and gas.  The company was a source of employment for 50 to 70 men, all drawn from the St. Albert and Sturgeon area.

Through these busy times Neil served on the local school board and served two terms as mayor of St. Albert, from 1947 to 1951.

Neil Ross was a man who loved sports (baseball in particular), books, business, politics (the Conservative brand), travel, his community and his family.

Sara (Sadie) Stanton attended the teachers college, called “Normal School”, in Camrose and, in 1926, at the ripe old age of 18 with a freshly minted teaching certificate in hand, she went to Calihoo, Alberta, and taught grades 1 through 9 in a one room country schoolhouse. There would be subsequent teaching posts in St. Lina and, then, St. Albert where she would meet and marry Neil.

Sadie was woman of deep religious faith who would devote endless hours to work with the Catholic Women’s League.  She had an equally deep belief and interest in community affairs and social issues, and was a lifetime member of the Women’s Institute.

Because of her background as a teacher Sadie would maintain a keen interest in educational matters and, in 1971, she would become the first woman elected to public office as a school trustee in St. Albert. She served two terms.  Sadie was a woman who had wide and varied interests: she loved books, art and sports, including golf, skiing and hiking. Like her lifetime partner she loved her community and her family.

Her interest in community caused her to become an early member of the St. Albert Historical Society and she participated as a volunteer organizer, researcher and writer. Sadie believed that knowing our past would help us to be better people and citizens in our own times.

Neil Ross died in 1977. Sadie journeyed on for another 25 years until her passing at the age of 93 in 2002. In their time together Neil and Sadie had “lives well lived” and left the most important kind of legacy: a contribution to the community and the respect and affection of their peers.

 

Editor’s Note: Sadie also served her community as a member of the Senior Citizen’s Club of St. Albert, the Lioness club and the Youville Home Auxiliary. Sadie became an active member of the St. Albert Historical Society in 1979 and, in 1990, at age 80, Sadie became a member of the Board of Directors. In her ninetieth year, Sadie agreed to serve a new two-year term on the Board and to serve in the capacity of corresponding secretary. In 2000, in recognition of her long and dedicated service to the Society, Sadie Ross was conferred an Honorary Life Membership. Upon her passing in 2002, Sadie left a bequest to the Society to be used for the benefit of the Musée Héritage Museum. The Museum has used these funds to furnish and equip a School Program Zone dedicated to Sadie’s memory. Author Ann Smith is Neil and Sadie’s eldest daughter.

 

Reprinted from The Echoes, Vol. XXIII, No. 2, March 2005; St. Albert Historical Society