Photographer’s new calendar celebrates rural women of McBride

By Andrea Arnold


“Women of McBride” calendar project participant Christine Monroe (right) stands with her father Ollie Schiefelbein reading the profiles of the other ladies, at the unveiling Monday. Below are a few shots of the women (L to R) Dannielle Alan, Thelma Molendyk, Rosemary Hruby and Naomi Balla-Boudreau. Calendars are now on sale at the Whistlestop gallery. / ANDREA ARNOLD

When local photographer, William Clark, approached Dannielle Alan, manager of the Whistlestop Gallery, with the idea of making a “Women of McBride” calendar, she was excited and jumped on board to find the resources to make it a success.  The idea was to find and showcase the women of the community who keep things going and plan events, but usually hide behind the scenes.

When he came back to her and requested she be one of the ladies featured, she had a small panic attack.  She could think of so many others she felt are more deserving of the recognition.  Alan moved to the valley in 2005. She has been a part of many committees and held so many jobs it is hard to remember them all.  Currently she holds the title of Regional District Representative and manager of the Whistlestop.   Alan was completely supportive of the project as she saw it as a way to bring people together and a way for women to build each other up.

Longtime resident, Thema Molendyk, was surprised, then honoured to be asked to participate in this very thoughtful project.  “McBride has a lot to be proud of and lots of people who help behind the scenes, “ she said.  Molendyk moved to Dunster in the early 1950s with her parents.   She finished up her schooling and married in ’54.  For 45 years she and her husband farmed out in Dunster. All the while Molendyk was (still is) an active member of the United Church in McBride.  She and fellow calendar participate Fern Sansom planned and executed the creation of the garden at the hospital.  She puts her heart into all that she steps in to.  Her involvement with the Thrift Store began “when the girls got sick,” and she filled in.  She enjoyed providing the opportunity for affordable items to the community so stepped into the role of manager of the store 12 years ago.  Molendyk loves what she does and stated that she prefers to be behind the scenes, volunteering for the love of a cause, not the recognition.

When Clark approached Rosemary Hruby for her suggestions about who should be included in the calendar, she thought it was “the coolest project,” and handed him a list of names without hesitation.  She was caught off guard when he turned the tables on her and told her she had been selected for the shoot.  Hruby said of Clark’s photography, “he saw something in each of us that we don’t see in ourselves.  He was able to capture who we are.”  Hruby moved to the valley 38 years ago and served alongside husband David in the Chamber of Commerce at the height of planning for the Jubilee celebration.  She also quickly became involved in the hospital auxiliary and local daycare, and has juggled many other positions since her arrival. Currently she owns Advantage Insurance and serves as a council member in McBride.  She says of the small town mindset, “if you want something to happen, you have to make it happen.”  She has never seen a project like the “Women of McBride” calendar, but has been trying to convince husband David, McBride Fire Chief, to do a “Hall of Flame” version for the fire department fund raiser for years.

Relative newcomer to the area, Naomi Balla-Boudreau arrived in the valley 7 years ago after applying for a nationally advertised library job.  She think Clarks idea is a fantastic way to showcase how the community is made up of individuals who care.   Having grown up in a small town in Ontario she remembers her whole family, grandparents, parents and siblings, all deeply involved in the community, making Balla-  a third generation volunteer.  “I think it is a small town thing,” she said, remembering with a smile, being taken to the Elks Hall to help the Ozalenka Hiking Club prepare for an event within an hour of her arrival in town.  She loves being a part of McBride and how her job with the library extends into community events, and allows her to stay out of the spotlight.  When approached to participate in the calendar she was “honoured to have been asked, and terrified of the process.”  She said that standing with the other ladies at the event to unveil the calendar she couldn’t help but look around at the people gathered and think “everyone in the room deserves to be recognized. Why me?”  She believes that there could be calendar printed every year for a number of years to cover all who deserve to be honoured.

The selection process was very secretive.   Only Clark knew who had been asked, who had accepted and who had declined.  On the evening of Monday, October 22, at the old library, the photos used in the final product were on display and a short presentation made, as all but two of the photographed women stood before those gathered.  The calendar cover features the late Fern Sansom’s photo. A large print of the photo was held as a part of the group by Fern’s husband Lloyd and daughter Marj.  The calendar women in attendance were Bridget Uhl, Loranne Martin, Linda Fry, Sheilagh Foster, Naomi Balla-Boudreau, Dawna Hickerty, Dannielle Alan, Julie Holland, Rosemary Hruby, Thema Molendyk and Christine Monroe.  Missing from the evening was Tanya Rich and Sandy Bernie.

The calendars are now available for purchase at the Whistlestop Gallery for $20.  Proceeds will reimburse the Whistlestop for its startup funding.  Any remaining proceeds will go to other non-profit organizations in the area.  Each of the recognized women will be given the opportunity to allocate funds to the non-profit of their choosing.

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