"If you have the ability to give, you should keep on giving."
- Berdie Fowler, on whether or not she sees retirement in her future
Bertha (Berdie) Fowler is a dedicated Alberta community leader and volunteer who has helped to forge new openings territory for Alberta businesswomen and spurred the development of many programs and services in her home of Camrose. Her contributions range from her work as co-founder and editor of the award-winning Camrose Booster weekly publication, to her service on provincial, business and industry boards, to her commitment to serving women and families in her community.
Berdie was born in Bittern Lake, Alberta on July 1, 1920 to Lester and Lilian Anderson. She and her two sisters grew up on the family farm where their responsibilities included feeding the chickens and gathering eggs. The emphasis at home, however, was always that school should remain the first priority. After graduating from Camrose High School, Berdie chose to pursue post-secondary education. Since she was too young to be accepted into nursing school, Berdie enrolled in business college to improve her chances of finding employment in the difficult labour market of the 1930s.
In 1939, Berdie graduated from the Camrose Lutheran College (now the Augustana Campus of the University of Alberta). In 1940, she married William F. (Bill) Fowler, whom she first met in high school and with whom she also attended college. In 1945, following Bill’s service to various postings with the Royal Canadian Air Force, Berdie and Bill were eager to return to Camrose to raise their four children, Bonnie, Blain, Beth and Bruce.
After spending 12 years as a full-time wife and mother, Berdie joined Bill to start The Camrose Booster in 1952. The free weekly paper has enjoyed great success and has remained family-operated since its creation. Today, their son Blain is owner and publisher. Berdie remains involved with the paper, writing her award-winning column, Pen Points, as she has done for many years.
Over the years, Berdie has taken time from her duties with family and the paper to contribute to numerous community and volunteer organizations. In the late 1960s she was chair of the founding board of the Camrose Children’s Day Care Centre - the first public day care centre established in Alberta outside of Edmonton and Calgary. At that time there was public opposition to such a facility on the basis that it would encourage mothers to work outside their homes - then generally believed to be a bad thing. The concept was eventually accepted and the Centre opened in 1968. Berdie served as the President of the Board of Directors for the first two years and remains a proud booster of the Day Care Centre.
Berdie’s long record of community service includes duties as Alderman for the City of Camrose from 1974 to 1977. She has also worked to enhance the quality of life in her community as a dedicated volunteer with organizations such as the Camrose and District Crime Stoppers, the Camrose Association for Community Living, the Augustana Faculty of the University of Alberta, the Battle River Community Foundation, the Camrose Public Library and various community literacy programs.
Though much of Berdie Fowler’s volunteer work has focused on ensuring women are given fair opportunities in business and in the community, she refers to herself as a humanist rather than a feminist, believing that people should be appointed to positions based on their ability and suitability for that job.
Her own abilities led her to become the first woman on the board of the Alberta Opportunity Company. She was also the first woman to serve on the Apprenticeship and Trade Certification Board and has been president of the Business and Professional Women’s Club of Camrose.
In 1972, Berdie was the first woman ever to be elected as president of a chamber of commerce in Alberta, and only the second in all of Canada. She has been an active member of the Alberta Chamber of Commerce, where she served as chair of the education committee. As a past president and life member of the Camrose Chamber of Commerce, Berdie has remained active in promoting Camrose as a vibrant community. She lives by her late husband’s motto: “Be of service; think beyond yourself.”
Berdie’s commitment to service has been recognized with numerous awards and honours, including the Alberta Centennial Medallion and the Canada 125 medal. In 1992, she received the Distinguished Alumna Award from her alma mater, Augustana University College. Her efforts with the Camrose Booster were honoured with the Independent Free Papers of America Outstanding Contributions Award, the Joseph M. Sklenar Editorial Award.
Through her tireless work, Berdie Fowler has become a pioneer for Alberta women and the gold standard in Camrose and East-Central Alberta in defining and promoting community excellence.