The Girl from Maple Creek


The title of this post sounds like it should be the next instalment of the Little House on the Prairie books, but it’s not.

This is the story of Ruth Wallace. 

She was born June 20th, 1918, in the village of Maple Creek, Saskatchewan.  The First World War had just ended and along with the troops returning from the front came the Spanish Flu. 

The current COVID-19 pandemic has drawn a lot of comparisons to the Spanish Flu, mainly because of their global scope and the coincidental fact that they have occurred roughly 100 years apart.  But the similarities end there. 

We now know that COVID-19 is a SARS strain transmitted through the air while the Spanish Flu was a strain of H1N1 Influenza that passed between humans due to poor sanitary practices and the deplorable living conditions on the western front.

Between the time it was first detected in North America, in the spring of 1918 to the time it was brought under control 2 years later, it is estimated that anywhere from 17-100 million people died through four successive waves of disease.  Over a third of the human population at the time (about 500 million people) became infected.  Accurate estimates are hard to come by however because the initial infections went unreported to protect soldier’s moral and maintain support for the war. 

By way of comparison there have been just over 5.3 million deaths from COVID and around 275 million cases to date. 

Back in 1920, when the dust finally settled one of the dead was Ruth’s mother, who contracted the virus and died shortly before Ruth’s 2nd birthday.  Ruth was raised solely by her father, the local village Doctor/ Veterinarian who tragically contracted yet another flu like infection in 1932, and died, leaving 14-year-old Ruth all alone in the world. 

She would eventually move to Toronto to live with her cousin where she met and married an air-force mechanic, raised two daughters, and peacefully passed away in 2008 at the age of 90.

As we head into yet another winter of COVID protocols, lockdowns, physical distancing, vaccines, and antigen testing, my thoughts have often returned to Ruth Wallace and the tragic circumstances that defined her world.

You see, Ruth Wallace, the Girl from Maple Creek, daughter of two victims of infectious disease was my Grandmother. 

What would my Grandmother say about the current COVID-19 pandemic and the way we have handled ourselves these past two years? 

I don’t rightly know.  But she was a practical woman, not one to dismiss the advice of experts or to take things lightly.   She would probably say to get your vaccine and boosters too, take an antigen test when you can and wear a mask. 

My grandmother was practical in other things too. 

She insisted that my mother get her own Life Insurance as soon as she had a full-time job, having used her father’s insurance to fund her move to Ontario all those years ago.  My mother’s policy is still active today and worth several times more than she ever paid into it.  And she opened savings accounts for each of her grandchildren as soon as they were born, mine helped to put me through college. 

Life wasn’t easy for Ruth Wallace, but she made the most of what she had and built a good life for herself.  I am proud to be part of her legacy. 

As we stand on the precipice of 2022 let me be the first to say, Happy New Year and all the best for any holidays you choose to celebrate.  I’m sure 2022 it will be a year we won’t soon forget, let’s make sure it’s for good reasons, not difficult ones.

Lauren

  • Canada Life’s My Term Discount (15% off 10-year term Life Insurance and 10% all other term polices) ends January 31, reach out for more information here.
  • The 2021 RRSP Deadline is March 1, 2022.  The TFSA maximum increase for 2022 is $6000.00.  Reach out today and make your contributions.

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