On January 22, 1985, the Honourable W. Helen Hunley had the distinction of being the first woman to be appointed Lieutenant Governor of Alberta. She was very active in Alberta municipal and provincial politics and was the first woman to be given full ministerial status in the Alberta government.
She served as the second Chancellor of the Alberta Order of Excellence from 1985 – 1991.
Wilma Helen Hunley was born on September 6, 1920, at Acme, Alberta. She was the daughter of James Edgar Hunley and Esta May Hunley. Her early years were spent in the Delia district. In 1933, she moved with her family to the Rocky Mountain House district. She attended rural schools in southern Alberta and went to the Rocky Mountain House High School.
She first worked as a telephone operator in Carstairs, Acme, and Calgary. In 1941, she enlisted in the Canadian Women's Army Corps and served overseas from 1943 to 1945. She was discharged with the rank of Lieutenant. After her discharge, she returned to her mother's farm which she helped operate for one year. She was then employed for nine years by an implement and truck dealership and an insurance agency at Rocky Mountain House. She purchased these businesses in 1957 and held the International Harvester franchise in Rocky Mountain House until 1968. She was the first woman to hold an International Harvester dealership in North America. She has her Journeyman's Certificate as a "Partsman." She owned and managed Helen Hunley Agencies Limited, an insurance agency, from 1968-71.
W. Helen Hunley was active in community affairs and volunteer agencies, particularly the Red Cross, Boy Scouts, and Rocky Mountain House Memorial Public Library. As well, she served in various executive positions in the Rocky Mountain House Badminton Club, Arts and Crafts Association, and Recreation Board.
She was Town Councillor for six years (1960-66) and Mayor of Rocky Mountain House for five (1966-71). She was first elected the Member of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta for the electoral district of Rocky Mountain House in 1971. She was re-elected in 1975. She served as Minister Without Portfolio from 1971 to 1973 and was responsible for the Alberta Health Care Commission. She then served as Alberta's first Solicitor General from 1973 to 1975. And finally, she was appointed Minister of Social Services and Community Health on April 3, 1975. She did not run as a candidate at the general election of 1979.
In June, 1980, she was appointed Chairman of the Alberta Mental Health Advisory Council. The same year, she also served on the Alberta Seventy-fifth Anniversary Commission and helped form the Alberta Citizens' Coalition. This coalition was organized to inform other Canadians regarding Alberta's position during the negotiations between the Alberta and Canadian governments over constitutional and energy-related issues. In 1984, she served as President of the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta.
W. Helen Hunley was a Dame of Grace of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem and she received an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Alberta in 1985.
Her term as Lieutenant Governor of Alberta was completed on March 11, 1991. Ms. Hunley died on October 22, 2010 at Rocky Mountain House.
Executive Director, The Alberta Order of Excellence