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Bowden meal organizer asks community for help

Tradition goes back 14 years

BOWDEN — For the past 14 years, Susan (Gail) Rear has – with the help of her daughter and two or three other people -- provided a Christmas Day meal at the Bowden Friendship Centre.

Rear, a former resident of Olds and Bowden who now lives in Red Deer, did that again this year.

But now she’s looking for someone else to take it over; or at least do the vast majority of the work, because at 61, her health isn’t what it used to be.

“I’m still willing to supply everything, but my health has been deteriorating and I’d really like to go start spending winters somewhere warmer,” she told the Mountain View Albertan.

“But if I don’t find somebody before next year to do it, well, I’ll do it. My family will be like, ‘we told you you wouldn’t stop.’”

When Henry Sonnenberg began holding Christmas dinners in Olds back in 1978, Rear helped him prepare them. That planted the seed for the Bowden one.

Rear kept the idea in the back of her mind.

Later, while working at Bowden FasGas, she met an elderly man who’d stop by occasionally for fuel and conversation.

He indicated he would have liked to go somewhere for a meal and fellowship at Christmas, but nothing was open.

That re-sparked the idea. Unfortunately, that gentleman passed away before he could attend Rear’s Christmas meal, but she went ahead with it and the tradition was born.

The crowd has ranged in size from 56 the first year or two to as low as 12. Twenty-six people showed up last year.

They tend to be elderly people, but some families have participated too.

Rear says she gets a special feeling organizing and setting out the meal.

“I just feel awesomely happy to see people smiling and eating and saying ‘thank you,’” she says. “I just like doing it.”

Over the years, the gathering has changed a bit. It used to last for quite a while, but now it’s over by mid to late afternoon.

 “We used to play games and do things and talk in the afternoon and then have a leftover supper,” Rear says.

“But now it is just lunch so that my daughter and I and whoever’s helping can get it all cleaned up, packed in our two cars and back to Red Deer we go.”