She touched my life

Rubena Wenzel was one of the most inspiring women I have met. I aspire to live the full and happy life she exemplified. When she passed away on Dec. 26, 2021, she had packed a lot of living into her 107 years.

Born on May 20, 1914, during a snowstorm at the family’s Colleston farm, Rubena McCloy was exceptional in many ways.

She came of age during the Depression and worked hard all of her life. Going to high school in Prince Albert meant boarding in town. She shared a room with two other girls and told me how they cooked sausages over the heater in their room.

She graduated at the top of her class from PACI in 1933 and received the Governor General’s medal. The family could not afford to send her to university so she took courses at a local business college to become a legal secretary. She worked for Mr. Lindsay and was paid $40 a month… a good wage at the time. She later worked for the Department of Natural Resources and was a “stringer” for the Prince Albert and Saskatoon newspapers, being paid by the inch of copy.

She married an RCMP member, Cpl. Charles Ernest (Ernie) Wenzel , in 1937. They moved frequently: La Ronge, Hudson Bay, Big River and Esterhazy. Amenities differed. In La Ronge she had no running water but she had a dog team!

Her longest stay was six years in Big River where she had time to go through all the chairs of the Royal Purple. In Prince Albert she was just as active in Eastern Star.

Rubena achieved Grade 10 in piano and volunteered her musical abilities at the various churches she attended during her husband’s RCMP postings. She was Sunday School Superintendent and a member of the church women’s groups.

In 1954 Ernie and Rubena opened an insurance office in Prince Albert and worked as a team. She was the first woman in Canada to be licensed as an insurance adjuster.

Together they raised a family of four who spread out in North America. After retirement in 1974 Ernie and Rubena split their time between Texas, the cabin at Emma Lake and their home in Prince Albert.

Her obituary states: “An accomplished athlete, Rubena excelled in tennis, skiing, curling, golfing, shuffleboard and she was a true card shark who won so much we always accused her of cheating which, of course, she would never do! No one could beat Rubena at Scrabble and she finished Advanced Crossword Puzzles daily in pen.”

I was privileged to interview Mrs. Wenzel in 2007 when she lived in an apartment overlooking PACI. Ever the farm girl, she had tomatoes and flowers growing in pots on her balcony. I asked for her recipe for living a long, active life: “Never say you’re too old. Eat three meals a day and lots or raw veggies … no soft drinks or junk food. Cook your own meals and get lots of exercise. And stay away from the doctors’ offices because that’s where the germs are.”

Rubena’s family pay tribute to her in her obituary: “Her strength was matched by her intellect and kindness. She touched every life she came into contact with.”