Happy 108th Birthday, Thelma Miller Gorley!

Thelma Miller 1910

Thelma Mae Miller was born September 24, 1909 to Frederick William Miller and Henrietta Newton at Indian Head, Saskatchewan.  Thelma was the fourth child of five for Fred and Henrietta.  She had two brothers (Norman and Bill), and two sisters, Luella and Lauretta.

Thelma Miller on left with teacher and friends

Her family was in Saskatchewan until sometime between 1916 and 1921, when census records show them in Alberta.  Thelma’s family settled in the Hardisty / Hughenden / Amisk area of Alberta, not far from where George and Ethel Gorley lived with their two sons, Harold and Arthur.

On January 8, 1929 nineteen-year-old Thelma married Harold McDougal Gorley at the home of Dr. McBride in Hardisty.  The newlyweds spent the first year of married life with Harold’s parents, Ethel and George Gorley in Hughenden.  Harold and his father, George, farmed a piece of land near Rosyth.  It was there that their first child, Orval, was born, delivered by his grandmother because the doctor could not make it in time.

Thelma with Orval and Wilma 1931.

Harold acquired a nearby plot of farmland where they established their own homestead, and had four more children there – Wilma, Delbert, Gwen, and Donella.  Harold continued to work with his father farming their lands.

Thelma was active in community life as a member of the Literary Society and the Farm Women’s Union of Alberta.  The FWUA made a quilt with each member’s name stitched into it, and apparently that quilt is still in the area, stitching intact!

The 1930s were a challenge in many ways and farming was not easy.  They endured hail storms, grasshopper infestations, and drought.  Thelma’s brother, Bill Miller, was working on the Federal Government Experimental Farm near Smithers, BC and suggested they come west.  He arranged for Harold to work on the Experimental Farm for a year to see if they liked it.  Harold was impressed and brought Thelma out for a month to see if the Bulkley Valley suited her.

Harold and Thelma Gorley.

Thelma fell in love with the country so in November 1942 Harold, Thelma, and their five children moved to BC and settled in the Telkwa area.  Three more sons were born in BC – Fred, Mervin, and Melvin, completing the family of five boys and three girls.

Sadly, Thelma died suddenly and much too young on September 19, 1954, only five days before her 45th birthday.  Her youngest child was only eighteen months old.

We don’t know much about Thelma’s personality but photos of her convey a sense of fun and friendliness.  As a young mom, she has a sparkle in her eye that suggests she loves nurturing and raising her children.

Happy birthday, Thelma.  I wish I could have known you.

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