Bessie Ellis

Obituary of Bessie May Ellis

January 8, 1927 – Pincher Creek, Alberta

November 20, 2023 – Calgary, Alberta


With heavy hearts, the family of Bessie Annand Ellis (nee Vroom) announces her passing on Monday, November 20, 2023, in Calgary, AB.  A beautiful and multi-talented woman, Bessie died peacefully, surrounded by her loving family.


Bessie spent her early years playing with her beloved goats and horses on her family’s ranch south of Beaver Mines, AB.  For her elementary grades, she attended one-room country schools, Gladstone Valley and Coalfields, riding horseback for a daily round-trip of nearly nine miles.  At 17 years old, Bessie led the Pincher Creek Fair and Rodeo parade on her handsome sorrel horse.


She graduated from Pincher Creek High School and then Calgary Normal School, with a Wartime Emergency Certificate in Elementary Education.  In 1945, she started a teaching career of 30 years at East View and Livingstone, one-room country schools near Drumheller, AB, and then at Waterton Park School.  In 1948, she married Waterton resident George Annand.


During her more than 20 years in Waterton, Bessie wrote feature articles and the column “Wonderful Waterton” for The Lethbridge Herald.  She also contributed news items to CJOC Radio and CJLH-TV in Lethbridge, The Calgary Herald and Calgary Albertan, and the Hungry Horse News in Columbia Falls, MT.  In addition to gardening, sewing and baking for a growing family, in the 1950s, Bessie voluntarily created and taught an English as a Second Language course for immigrant families who came to Waterton after WW2.  She was a founder and leader of the Waterton Girl Guide troop.  Bessie completed Grade 6 Piano, Western Board of Music (University of Alberta).  In 1956, she won the Silver Medal in grade 3 Theory for the Prairie provinces.  She played the old pump organ for services, and was an active volunteer, in All Saints Anglican Church and the Anglican Women’s Auxiliary, Waterton.  Later in Regina, she greatly enjoyed playing piano and leading seniors in sing-alongs of old-time songs.


In 1965, Bessie returned to teaching at the East Cardston Hutterite Colony. She updated her teaching qualifications, earning a BEd degree (University of Lethbridge), MEd degree (University of Alberta), and a post-graduate Diploma in Educational Administration (University of Regina).  In 1969, the family moved to Lethbridge where she taught at Lakeview Elementary and was vice-principal of George McKillop School.  In 1975, she moved to Regina and married Claude Ellis, a former MP in the House of Commons.  As a reading specialist teaching at Kitchener Elementary School, she wrote a computer program on her Atari, creating a learning game which made reading fun.  Bessie was President of the South Saskatchewan Reading Council.


During her years in Lethbridge and Regina, Bessie was active in politics, running as a candidate in municipal, provincial and federal elections.  She then worked to promote the election of women at provincial and federal levels.  In the early 1980s, the Saskatchewan New Democratic Women (SNDW) established the Bessie Ellis Fund to assist women running for political nomination.  In 1992 Bessie was awarded the Commemorative Medal for the 125th Anniversary of the Confederation Canada, 1867 – 1992, “in recognition of significant contribution to compatriots, community and to Canada.”   Upon retirement, Bessie moved to Victoria, BC, and returned to her writing.  She wrote and published five volumes in her series “The Vrooms of the Foothills”.  Her books include over 1,200 photos, whose captions recount stories of the settling of southwest Alberta.


Bessie was predeceased by her homesteader grandparents Oscar and Alena Vroom, Beaver Mines, and George and Mary Tyson, Utopia district; parents Ralph and Mollie Vroom; brothers Donald (Jacqueline) Vroom and Bill (Maureen) Vroom, sister Marion (Mike) Grechman; husbands George Annand, Claude Ellis, and Joseph Meade; and son-in-law Michael Lailey, Calgary.


Left to mourn her passing but to celebrate her many accomplishments are her children, Edith (Wayne) Smithies, Evelyn Lailey, David (Geraldine) Annand, and James Annand (Shelley McConnell), nine grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.


Her family thanks the staff of Scenic Grande Retirement Home and Foothills Medical Centre, Calgary, AB, for the compassionate care Bessie received, and the concern shown to her family in a difficult time. 




Her funeral service will be held at St. John’s Anglican Church, Pincher Creek (817 Kettles St, Pincher Creek, AB T0K 1W0), on Saturday, May 25, 2024, at 1p.m. Family and friends are invited for tea after the service.


 In lieu of flowers, please consider donating, in Bessie’s memory, to your favourite charity or Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village (Box 1226, Pincher Creek, AB T0K 1W0), 


Funeral Service

1:00 pm
Saturday, May 25, 2024
St. John’s Anglican Church
817 Kettles St
Pincher Creek, Alberta, Canada
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