Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Calgary North Stake on Saturday, October 15, 2016, proved a hugely popular event.
Over 640 people crowded into the Calgary North Stake Centre at Tipton Road for an evening of rediscovery, good food, live entertainment, and fellowship. The North Stake is the second oldest Stake of the seven in Calgary, having been formed in 1966, with the original Calgary Stake being created in 1953.
And after spending the past six months working almost fulltime to prepare everything from tickets to food to archival photographs, assisted by an untiring group of more than 150 saints who laboured with her, Gala organizer Fern Schmidt, of the Sierra Springs Ward, is both relieved and exhilarated that the gala proved such a great experience. “There were so many stories told on the night,” she recalls. “Everyone just couldn’t stop talking.”
Sister Schmidt wasn’t alone in thinking the evening was a “huge success.” The amount of gratitude she received, sometimes from people in tears, was overwhelming. “I’m thankful to bring people joy, and hearing all of the wonderful stories later made all that hard work worth it,” she adds.
One story that touched her heart involved a couple, both terminally ill, who came “one more time” to see their friends. Others told her that they felt that the experience of the gala was “so wonderful, this is what it’s going to be like in the Celestial Kingdom.”
Over its 50-year history, the Calgary North Stake has had eight Stake Presidents:
Gerald E Melchin
Blaine L Hudson
Lynn A Rosenvall
Myron H Manley
Gordon F West
Duane D Neville
F. Brent Thomas
B. Craig Prince (current)
Three former Stake Presidents were on hand to inspire the audience with memories and stories from the past 50 years. Stake Presidents Lynn Rosenvall (1978-1979), Gordon West (1988-1997), and Duane Neville (1997-2006) each delved back into earlier years, exploring memories of growth, struggles and accomplishments.
Master of ceremonies and former stake presidency member Mike Bester introduced a varied and enjoyable program, which began with a Saturday’s Warrior number “Circle of Love” sung by Janis Kershaw and Ken Purnell. Then Granger and Connie Low sang an amusing “Do You Love Me?” from Fiddler on the Roof. Ken Pernell was back a little later accompanied by Andrew Hawryluk for “Closed Doors” from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” The final number was taken from Handel’s Messiah and was sung by Jenni Taylor, accompanied by Jill Jackson. A dance with a live band followed the program, along with desserts.
Current Stake President Craig Prince also gave a few short memories, but one of his counselors sliced up a different sort of memory; President Ken Payne carved meat the whole evening as part of a crew working for non-member and Calgary Stampede Chef Richard Vitug, who oversaw all the food. A sister put it best in an email to Fern Schmidt later: “The food was superlative and the way it was organized was amazing.”
For his part, Chef Vitug was amazed at the volunteer effort and how smoothly it all came together.
All the Calgary North Stake missionaries worked hard on the evening as well, helping serve food and drinks, assisted by six senior missionaries from the mission home.
The decorations were inspiring and over 40 sisters spent many hours making light coverings for every light in the building, plus large paper flowers and many picture frames, while Katie Hornberger and her crew had the strenuous and time-consuming task of putting up the impressive decorations and picture displays of events from the past 50 years.
Sister Schmidt admits she couldn’t have managed the late nights and holding the house together without the help of husband Jet, who filled in in many other areas that needed last minute help. Her father Allan Orr, a non-member, also helped enthusiastically.
Elder Joe J. Christensen said in the October 1989 General Conference, “Someone who was a little more poetic than theological said, “Memory is the one Garden of Eden out of which one need never be cast.” Good memories are real blessings.”
Clearly, the Calgary North Stake has been greatly blessed over the 50 years of its existence.