Valentine’s Day will soon be upon us. It is a time of year normally filled with romantic stories of love and happiness.
However, the situation 100 years ago was much different. The First World War had broken out. Many young men left their wives, fiancées and girlfriends behind as they went overseas to fight ‘For King and Country.’ All too often their stories ended up with heartbreak and loss.
An example of such a sad story involves a young member of the Royal Northwest Mounted Police, Frank Holt.
He had been born on Aug. 23rd, 1888 at Rochdale in Lancashire, England.
After the turn of the last century, he decided to try a new life in western Canada. In 1913, he enlisted with the Royal Northwest Mounted Police.
In January 1914, he was posted to Red Deer.
Soon after he moved to Red Deer, he met a young school teacher, Annie ‘Dollie’ Patterson. She had been born in Hemel, Hempstead, England, on Oct. 20th, 1881. In 1909, she moved with her mother and sister Kate to join her father and four brothers, Frank, Leaman, Ralph and Leonard, who had taken up homesteads in the Condor/Leslieville districts, west of Red Deer.
Annie quickly secured a teaching job at the Prairie Rose country school. She later transferred to Leslieville.
However, in 1912, at the urging of the school inspector J.F. Boyce, she moved to Red Deer where she got a job teaching at the North Red Deer Cottage School.
After a year, she transferred to the Red Deer Public School (later affectionately known as The Castle), which was located east of 48 Avenue.
In early 1914, she met and fell in love with the dashing young constable Frank Holt.
She quit her teaching position at the end of the school term and began making preparations for their marriage.
In the words of Annie, “World events changed our plans.”
The First World War broke out in August 1914. Frank was eager to enlist, but first he had to pay $75 to be released from his contract with the R.N.W.M.P.
Once that was completed, he enlisted with “C” Squadron of the 12 Canadian Mounted Rifles on Jan. 11th, 1915. However, he did not wish to leave Red Deer before he married his beloved Annie.
Their wedding was a small and quiet affair. It took place on the evening of Saturday, Jan. 23rd in the beautiful sandstone St. Luke’s Anglican Church on the corner Gaetz Avenue and MacLeod (54) Street.
After the ceremony, the couple, family and friends enjoyed a small wedding supper at the Commercial Café, the predecessor of the famous Club Café on Ross Street.
Shortly thereafter, Frank departed for England and service overseas.
Annie soon followed him and took up residence near the large military training camps at Bramshot, Folkestone, and Shorncliffe. That gave her a chance to have some happy reunions with Frank while he was on leave from camp.
Frank was soon transferred to the Lord Strathcona Horse. Early in 1916, he was transferred to the battlefields of France. Meanwhile, Annie kept herself busy teaching school and volunteering at a military hospital.
Tragically, on April 2, 1918, Frank was killed at the end of the famous Battle of Moreuil Wood. He was buried in the Hangard Communal Cemetery in the Somme region of France.
In the fall of 1918, Annie returned to live with his mother in Red Deer.
She initially got a teaching position at the North Red Deer School again.
Soon, the great Spanish ‘flu epidemic struck. Annie spent much of her time nursing the sick.
Annie never remarried. She did, however, strike up a romance with a tall, good-looking fellow school teacher and later principal, Joseph Welsh.
Their relationship lasted more than 40 years.
Joseph Welsh passed away in January 1969. Annie passed away in January 1979, after spending her last years at the Valley Park Manor Nursing Home.