Phelma Schertel, 98, resides at Heaton Place Retirement Community in Armstrong. This is her story. (Carrie O’Neill - Heaton Place)

Phelma Schertel, 98, resides at Heaton Place Retirement Community in Armstrong. This is her story. (Carrie O’Neill - Heaton Place)

Focus on family: Armstrong ‘garlic queen’ Phelma Schertel

At 98, Schertel shares her stories from Heaton Place Retirement Community

Born on Sept. 27, 1922, in Tofield, Alta., to Alexander and Zora Ford, Phelma was the oldest of five children.

The Ford family resided on a large farm, where her father would operate a threshing company.

“We had a large barn full of teams of horses! It was my dad’s pride and joy,” she said.

“My first memory was being two years old and standing at the door of our home while watching my father bow his head and weep. His pride and joy were in a pile of ashes,” Phelma said. “The night before, the barn caught fire and sadly burned to the ground. All our horses went with the fire.

“It was a very hard time, but we got through as a family. I was a daddy’s girl, always wanting to make him proud, and I think I did that.”

Phelma’s mother, Zora, taught her at the young age of six to prepare and cook meals and maintain a clean home.

Meat and potatoes were always on the menu with some kind of dessert made out of apples or berries which were harvested by herself. She would eventually use those early taught skills to bring in an income throughout her life.

Phelma attended Ross Creek School and absolutely loved it!

“I always made an effort at being first place in everything I did!”

Her best friend in school was Edith Sampson and the two of them spent many hours talking and planning out “our great future.”

Phelma would stay in her family home until the age of 21. Soon after leaving home, she met her first husband to be, a preacher man named Wilbur Jackson.

It was a quiet wedding, just the two of them and they settled down together.

Phelma enjoyed working for the Edmonton RCMP K Division as a stenographer for 14 years which she thoroughly enjoyed.

Wilber passed in 1970 and fate would have it that one day when Phelma was standing to catch a bus she bumped into an old school friend – George Schertel.

“It was a Tuesday,” said Phelma. “We began dating on a Friday just before Christmas and married on Jan. 9, 1972!”

The couple would move to Creston and stay a short time but didn’t really enjoy this little town, so moved to Vernon where they would buy a home on Brew Road.

From Vernon they would discover the little town of Armstrong and quite liked it, so sold their home and purchased one in Armstrong.

Phelma would spoil her husband with fresh canning, and home-cooked meals, two hobbies that she loved.

George became known as the ‘garlic king’ of Armstrong.

They grew garlic till it was coming out of their ears!

It’s amazing to me how God works in our lives. The couple who lived next door, Wayne and Sharon Inglis, would eventually become very special in Phelma’s life. George and Wayne became pretty good friends and after George passed away, Wayne kept his promise to always make sure Phelma was taken care of.

Phelma eventually moved into Heaton Place where she enjoys her beautiful one-bedroom suite and putters with little sewing projects and puzzles.

At 98 years of age, arthritis has set in and she has had to let go of some of these hobbies.

Phelma is such a humble, grateful lady.

Wayne and Sharon are here to visit Phelma quite often despite their own health challenges in life.

I asked Phelma what message she would have for all of us, and her words were: “Don’t be interested in things going on around you, and be more interested in your family!”

A woman of faith, a kind heart, and a life she is grateful for — thank you for sharing your story, Phelma!

Carrie O’Neill is the resident relations co-ordinator at Heaton Place in Armstrong. These are the stories of its residents.