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Mamie's legacy will go on

Mamie Kerby and former mayor Jack Talsta in 2001. - Contributed
Mamie Kerby and former mayor Jack Talsta in 2001.
— image credit: Contributed

Lifelong Terrace resident and founder of Heritage Park Museum, Mamie Kerby, 91, died Feb. 25 after a short illness.

She’s known best for being one of the founders of the Terrace Regional Historical Society which was established in 1982 to preserve some of the early history of the area.

Those efforts resulted in taking apart, moving, and re-assembling historical log buildings from around the area at the Heritage Park Museum location on the bench.

She was on the first board of directors of the museum society and also served as its president.

In 1983, Heritage Park Museum opened to the public.

It was managed and operated by the society for more than 16 years and then was turned over to the city. Kerby was the volunteer director and manager during that entire time.

“That’s what she always did: see a need and [fill it],” said her daughter Norma. “She had the ability to see the bigger things to move the community forward.”

Take this example: when Kerby saw the need for a place for Terraceview Lodge residents to be outside with relatives or to hold barbecues and be outside during hot weather, she began to raise money. In what seemed like no time at all a gazebo was constructed.

“She was sincere and people could see that,” said Norma.

Mamie Kerby was born and raised here. Her parents were Chris and Eva (Osborne) Haugland and she had three brothers and an older sister.

Growing up, until they were teenagers, Kerby spent more time with her brothers. They thought nothing of cycling from town to Thornhill Mountain, hiking up the mountain to the old forestry lookout, hiking back down the mountain and then cycling to their cabin at the lake.

When she got older she began teaching Sunday school at Knox United Church and was a student music teacher. She also taught school at Old Remo and would walk seven miles there with a packsack and her big dog.

In 1942, she married Fred Kerby and they raised five children in Terrace.

They wanted all of their children to get some post-secondary education and they did: Dr. Robert Kerby is a metallurgical engineer; Dr. Norma Kerby is a well-known local biologist; Judy, a public health nurse; Eva is map designer for the regional district; and Eric runs his own business.

The acreage on which Mamie and her husband Fred and family lived since the 1950s bordered the top of Lanfear Hill.

She continued to live there until she went into Terraceview 10 days before her death.

Fred predeceased her in 2006.

Mamie and her husband were very outdoorsy people, said Norma. She loved to garden and do crafts and did a lot of volunteer work as a guide leader, at the library and at the church.

When she turned 60, she decided the city needed a museum.

Her interest in keeping history came from having a very good childhood at a time when the community was close-knit, everyone’s door was open, there was a sense of belonging and of doing things for each other, said Norma. She knew people whose families are now considered part of local history.

“She almost felt like it was her obligation,” said Norma.

She was one of those people who could identify people in photos and wanted to make sure they were identified accurately, said her daughter.

It was important to her that the artifacts she sourced highlighted how ingenious people’s methods of survival were in the early conditions here.

“People made do with what they had,” said Norma.

In 1999, the society turned the museum over to the city.

In September 2001, Kerby Avenue was named for Mamie and Fred for their contribution to Heritage Park Museum.

Kerby will be fondly remembered for her contributions to the Terrace community.

“With her positive, inspiring personality she was a tremendous role model in everything she did, for her family and for her community,” said Chantal Meijer, a member of the Terrace Regional Historical Society.

“Mrs. Kerby has been very involved in the community and devoted herself to make Terrace the community it is today,” said Terrace mayor Dave Pernarowski.

“We hope to honour Mamie Kerby and her legacy by continuing to operate Heritage Park Museum for the people of our city, and to continue collecting artifacts, historical photographs and other materials that document the rich history of this region,” said Grant Piffer, president, Terrace and District Museum Society (operators of Heritage Park Museum) and Kelsey Wiebe, curator of Heritage Park Museum.

Before she died, Kerby told her family she was disappointed because she had many more things to do. But her legacy will continue: a history board, written by her, and with photos she collected, is set to go up at Ferry Island this year.

A funeral service takes place at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 5, at Knox United Church with a reception afterward.

An interment will be in the spring at the Pioneer Cemetery.

Instead of flowers, the family asks for money to be donated to start a scholarship for a Grade 12 student in the local school district who’s going on to study history.

 

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