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Jasper Treasures: Edith Gourley

Edith Gourley is a retired nurse and a former Jasper resident who currently lives in Kamloops, B.C. | Supplied photo

Ali Howat, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter | reporter@fitzhugh.ca

What is a Jasper treasure? Well, Edith Gourley’s story will help us learn what a true Jasper treasure is.

Gourley is the youngest out of four children in her family, born in 1925 in Grande Prairie and raised on a farm in Clairmont.

Gourley’s father was an Englishman and her mother a WW1 war bride from Le Havre, France.

“I loved the farm, though sometimes it was difficult not having friends close by,” she said.

Up until Grade 8 when Gourley went to high school in Grande Prairie, she went to a one-room school.

“My walk to school was one mile but I did have shoes, and it was only uphill one way,” she said.

At the age of 18, Gourley left home to become a nurse.

“I always wanted to be a nurse,” she said.

Gourley entered the nursing program at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton and graduated from the program in 1947.

After graduation, she continued nursing at the Royal Alex. 

While living in Edmonton, Gourley met her husband, George Gourley.

Edith and George met in Edmonton in 1947 and were married in 1948.

George grew up in Jasper, and Harry Newman was his stepfather.

Newman ran the butcher shop that was located where the Totem Ski Shop is currently located.

George was called Junior Newman by all the locals; he only took his real name when he entered the air force in 1941.

Edith and George had three children in Edmonton, two boys and a girl.

In 1957, they moved to Grande Prairie and had another daughter in 1960.

Gourley moved to Jasper in 1967.

For ten years, Gourley worked as a registered nurse at the Seton-Jasper Healthcare Centre.

She worked the night relief shift two nights a week.

“I really got to know the people of Jasper by working there and met many skilled and caring people,” she said.

Gourley said it was impossible to list all her colleagues but it was a privilege to work with Marg Sand, Sheila Vuksanovich, Dr. Betkowski and Sister Marie Anthony.

In 1977, Gourley left the hospital and became Jasper’s Public Health Nurse.

“In this capacity I met a whole new generation of Jasperites – parents and children,” she said.

Gourley added how she felt lucky to be mentored by Olga Dowling and be able to work with Ellen Kowaluk.

“I had a few difficulties with expecting fathers who wanted me to reschedule prenatal classes so they wouldn’t miss the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but I prevailed and maybe taught them a little lesson about priorities.”

In 1987, Gourley retired and she and George decided to start travelling on a regular basis.

The two travelled together up until 1994 when George passed away.

Gourley then started travelling with her friend Glenda Cornforth and her daughters.

Gourley has stepped foot on every continent but Antarctica.

Throughout her time in Jasper, Gourley participated in a Thursday hiking group. The group completed many of the day hikes that Jasper has to offer.

Gourley’s favorite part of living in Jasper was the easy accessibility to the outdoors and activities such as hiking, skiing, gardening and curling.

Gourley left Jasper in 2007 to be closer to her family. She is currently residing in Kamloops.

“Jasper was much smaller when we moved here, so now I notice all of the new housing. I wonder where everyone lived back in the ‘60s and ‘70s. It was a strong involved community when we got here, and it was much the same when we left.”

“If I had family here, I would move back in a heartbeat,” she added.

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