Remembering the local legacy of Wellington Dawe

On Nov. 25th, 1977, 38 years ago, Wellington B. Dawe passed away. He was a highly respected, long time teacher and principal of the Lindsay Thurber Composite High School in Red Deer.

Robert Wellington Bradbury Dawe was born on March 28th, 1907, in Guelph, Wellington County, Ontario.

He was the eldest of five sons for Robert George and Helen Moore Dawe. His father was a civil engineer. His mother was an accomplished musician, who had been a soprano soloist and a member of the famous Mendelssohn Choir.

In 1910, Wellington moved with parents and baby brother Harold to Red Deer, where his father worked first on the construction of the Alberta Central Railway and then as Red Deer’s first City Engineer.

In June 1927, Wellington graduated from high school at the top of his class. He then went to the Calgary Normal School to obtain a first-class teacher’s certificate. His original plans were to teach for a while, and then go back to university to study law.

Unfortunately, the sudden passing of his father in May 1928 forced a change of plans.

Wellington returned to Red Deer to help support his widowed mother and younger brothers. He managed to secure a teaching position at the Balmoral School, just east of Red Deer. That was a near ideal situation for him as it allowed him to remain living in the family home in Michener Hill, while commuting out to work in the country every day.

In 1939, Wellington was finally able to resume his schooling, taking summer school courses at the University of Alberta. The following year, he left Balmoral and began teaching Grade IX at the Red Deer Intermediate School.

In the spring of 1942, Wellington, together with his brother Harold, enlisted with the Royal Canadian Air Force. He served as an instructor with No. 8 Armament Training Squadron and was stationed at many bases across Canada before being sent overseas.

After the War, Wellington resumed teaching at the Intermediate (Central) School. In 1947, he joined the staff at the new Red Deer Composite High School, teaching mathematics and social studies.

In 1949, Wellington was granted his Bachelor of Arts degree by the U of A and immediately began work on his M.A. in history, again by attending summer school. His master’s thesis was later published in 1967 by the Red Deer Kiwanis Club under the title ‘A History of Red Deer’.

In 1950, he was appointed as vice-principal at the Composite High School. He also became principal of the Department of Education’s Grade Xii Summer School, holding the position for 11 years. For three years, he taught history for the U of A under the evening credit program.

In 1961, Wellington became the principal of Composite High School. In 1970, after the amalgamation of the Composite and the Vocational High Schools, he became the first principal of the Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School.

Wellington was popular as a teacher and principal. He was affectionately known as ‘Wimpy’ to his students and staff, as that had been the same nickname used for the Wellington bombers during the War. However, to family and close friends, Wellington was known as Bo.

In 1972, the year he retired, Wellington was named Principal of the Year by the Alberta Council on School Administration.

Wellington remained active in his retirement with such groups as the Archives Committee and Fort Normandeau Management Board. He as an ardent naturalist and was a long-time member of the Alberta Natural History Society (later renamed the Red Deer River Naturalists), along with his best friend, Kerry Wood.

In 1967, Wellington was awarded the Canada Centennial medal for his “valued services to the nation.”

In the summer of 1977, he suffered a massive stroke and passed away in November. He is buried in the family plot in the Red Deer Cemetery.