A walk down memory lane

It was more than 50 years in the making—a "walk down memory lane" tea between Jacob Trach and the retired Sisters of Charity (Grey Nuns) of Montreal who reside at Youville Home in St. Albert. Jacob’s connection with the Sisters dates back to when the nuns ran a hog and dairy farm on the land where Youville Home currently sits and where the nuns opened the first hospital in Alberta. The farm operated to support the hospital, homes and schools they ran in and around Edmonton at that time.

“That certainly wasn’t yesterday,” Sister Germaine Roussel chimes into the conversation. Her comment makes everyone smile, because Sister Germaine has dementia and the talk about the dairy has obviously sparked a memory. “Sister Germaine worked at the dairy for nine years before it closed. She was a hard and diligent farm manager back then,” says Sister Dora Durand, Community Manager (Sister Superior) for the Grey Nuns at Youville Home. 

Historical photo of the Sisters of Charity (Grey Nuns) of Montreal on the prairies. The Sisters brought health care, social services and education to the west. They opened the first hospital in Alberta in 1863—42 years before Alberta became a province.

Due to the growing suburb next to the farm and increased pressures from government regulations on agriculture, the Sisters had to sell their farms. Jacob (or Jack, as he is known by friends) was thrilled to relive his shared past with some of the Sisters.

In 1962, Jack was employed as the Edmonton Branch Manager for Purity Dairy out of Lethbridge. His job was to help with the transfer of ownership and management of the Sisters’ dairy to its new owners, brothers Romeo and Stanley Fabbi. 

The dairy that Purity Dairy purchased from the Sisters was adjacent to the current location of the Youville Home in St. Albert.

The documents retrieved from the Sisters’ archives in Montreal confirm the tale, but what they do not disclose is a special clause that ensured the continuation of a supply of milk to facilities operated by the Sisters in and around Edmonton free of charge.

“Back in the day, I used to make these milk deliveries personally. It was a joy and pleasure to see the Sisters. I have never forgotten how welcome they made me feel,” says Jack. The operation eventually moved from the site. “I continued to do the milk run for about five months until the agriculture infrastructure came into place and dairies were given catchment areas by the government,” says Jack. He never did forget his special connection to the Sisters all these years later. 

After being a patient at the Edmonton General hospital before it transitioned to the Edmonton General Continuing Care Centre in 1989, Jack became a donor to the Covenant Foundation, making gifts in the Sisters’ honour.

“I thank God every day for the care that I received; who knows what might have happened to me," Jack says. "The good Lord blessed me, and as a Christian, giving back is just something that we were taught growing up.”

When Jack left agriculture and started his own food importing business, Klondike Food Inc., he continued to support the Sisters by donating to their causes. 

Cecilia Marion, Senior Director Operations, Covenant Health, is pictured above with Jack Trach and Sister Dora Durand reviewing the original farm land ownership documents.

“Staff, volunteers and the residents act like one big family here. A primary focus for us is to provide a home-like atmosphere, where everyone knows each other by name,” says Cecilia Marion, Senior Director Operations, Seniors Care, and Site Administrator for the Youville Home and St. Joseph’s Auxiliary. “It’s the perfect atmosphere to come together and remember where we come from, reflect on what was and appreciate what is here now. It was a beautiful afternoon,” she says. 

Jack Trach, former patient, with Sister Dora Durand, Community Manager for the Grey Nuns at Youville Home

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