PELLY - On October 13, long-time Pelly resident, Margaret Waselenko will turn 87 years old. To celebrate, the energetic senior has decided to challenge herself by walking from her home in Pelly to the neighbouring town of Arran – a distance of approximately 16 kilometres (10 miles). Margaret is no stranger to walking. In fact for many years her regular exercise routine has involved getting outside to walk up to four miles per day.
“I like to walk two miles in the morning,” shared Waselenko. “And, then I go for another two miles after dinner. If I sit around too much I get all stiffened up and I sometimes I wonder if I’ll be able to get out of my chair. I feel like I need to keep moving. It’s just good to walk”
Waselenko was born in the Sunny Ilse District – about five miles north of Pelly. Her family moved to the town of Pelly when Margaret was six. As a girl, she was both a brownie and girl guide. She loved skipping and playing hopscotch with pieces of coloured glass she found and used a marker. Other childhood activities included skating on the Pelly outdoor rink and playing ball with the neighbourhood kids after everyone was done milking in the evening.
“At one time, Pelly had a lot going on,” recalled Waselenko. “I remember when the town had a number of grain elevators and grocery stores, a lumber yard, hardware store, hotel, cafes, banks, lawyer’s office, pharmacy, laundromat, and even our own movie theatre. Things have really changed since those days. The town would host amateur talent shows that were a lot of fun, and there was a train station in town that would take people wherever they wanted to go.”
As a young woman, Margaret fell head over heels for a man named Sam. The couple were soon married, working as farmers and soon specializing in growing mushrooms that they delivered to retailers in Yorkton. Eventually, Sam decided to work in television sales and repair – installing many satellite dishes in the area. It was around eight years ago when Sam passed away. The couple had been married nearly 58 years.
In addition to working alongside her husband by driving tractor, harrowing, picking stones and roots, and hauling grain from the combine, Margaret had some earlier experience as an on-call telephone operator in the days of the old wooden telephones and party lines.
“Back in those days, that’s where people got their news,” she said with a laugh. “Often, I would patch a call through and I could hear a click – from folks around town picking up their phones and listening in on private conversations.”
Today, Margaret lives an independent, albeit busy life. In addition to making quilts and volunteering for tea and bake sales for the Pelly Fellowship Chapel, she enjoys gardening and entertaining friends. She says she’s looking forward to the Pelly Museum resurrecting and repairing the old clay oven that was once used to bake bread and cinnamon buns.
When it comes to walking, Margaret welcomes anyone who wishes to join her – and especially those she lovingly refers to as her ‘old sidekicks’ – Darlene Miller and Laura Dahl who have accompanied her on many walks over the years.
Beginning in 1999, Margaret began documenting the epic walks she would take in the spring and the fall. A one-way trip to a nearby town would take somewhere around three hours. At first, it was her husband that would drive alongside her, ensuring she was safe from a loose dog or menacing bull along the way. After his passing, Margaret’s 73 year-old brother, John Lange, offered to help out.
“I’ve never had any trouble out there on the highway,” shared Margaret. “John follows with his car and brings me candies. He’ll go on ahead a mile or so and do some word search or listen to the radio while he waits for me.”