Rose (nee Gilowski) Dyrgas

Written by Canmore Museum

Rose was born in Poland and at the age of three years, her parents brought her to Canada. They first settled in Bankhead where Rose’s sister, Kate, and three brothers: Leon, Mike and Joe, were born. 

Bankhead Mines were closed down so the family moved to Canmore. Rose was only thirteen years old when her mother passed away. Rose left school to help her father raise the family and at age eighteen, she married Frank Dyrgas. Rose had ten children: Mary, Mike, Tony, Elsie, Frances, Caroline, Pauline, Frank, Leon and Joe. The first nine children were all born at home; Joe was the only child born in the hospital.

Rose loved to clean house and wash clothes. Many times, the women in “Prospect” competed with each other to see which one could get the laundry on the clothesline first, and who had the whitest wash! For many years of Rose’s young life, the laundry was all done on a scrub board, washing machines being very unavailable. During the “Great Depression”, there was nothing to eat, so when Rose had time, she would crochet, embroider or knit; oftentimes, her handiwork was sold or traded for flour, sugar or butter. 

Frank was a great community worker, when he had time, and he was always willing to help a neighbour, friend or the family, to build a house, shed or fences or whatever was needed. Besides the hard work at the mine, Frank had the largest garden in Canmore, to not only supply food for his large family but oftentimes, he would sell potatoes to supplement his income. He also sharpened saws and resoled shoes and boots for friends and, of course, his family. Through all this, Frank never complained. Frank and Rose were very strict in the upbringing of the “Dyrgas kids”; however, they were very loving and very caring parents. 

Frank and Rose instilled in their children to be kind and helpful to all. Most of the children were very community-caring. The boys did many types of community work, including sports or manual work. The girls were involved with the Ladies Auxiliary, minor hockey, 400 Club (new arena) and care-giving. Frank and Rosehad twenty-three grandchildren and many great-grandchildren. 

Mary, the oldest child, was born in 1924. After she completed elementary school in Canmore, she left for Edmonton with some friends. While Mary was working in Edmonton, she met an American airman, Vern Salvaag, whom she married in 1945. Mary and Vern moved to Billings, Montana, and later they had two daughters, Verna Mary and Debbie. Mary passed away in May, 1987. 

Mike, the oldest son, was born in 1925. At age fifteen, he started to work at the mine to help support the family. He was like a second father to his younger siblings, often bossing us around. In 1949, he married Eila Niemi and they both supported the Dyrgas family. They had one son, Darrel, who also worked at the mines until closure. Mike continued working with the mines until the final sale. He worked at the “old” hospital, later moving to the new Canmore Hospital as maintenance superintendent until his retirement in 1989. In his youth, Mike was an avid hockey player and later he would go on to coach many levels of minor hockey. Mike also loved to help his family and friends with any household repairs, plumbing, electrical or construction work. 

Tony was born in 1927 and at age sixteen, he began to work at the mine, later moving to the “company store” to work as a butcher’s helper. He then moved to Calgary to train as a butcher at SHop-Easy. He worked there for four years, later going to the Co-Op as a meat manager for twenty-seven years. In 1954, Tony married Judy Beale and they had two sons, Paul and Timothy. Tony now lives in High River. 

Elsie was born in 1928 and attended school until age sixteen. She moved to Drumheller where she married John Armstrong in 1948. Elsie and John had four daughters: Margaret Rose, Roberta, Linda and Heather, and also one boy, Robert. They moved to Canmore where John worked in the mine. In 1976, John was tragically killed in the mine.

Frances was born in 1929 and has remained here. She married Al Love in 1951. Al came to Canmore to work after service in the Army. They had one daughter, Regena, and three boys, Gregory, Christopher and Ronald. Frances was a very ambitious community worker – the Ladies Auxiliary, minor hockey, church bazaars, hospital teas and crafts were among the charities she worked for. 

Caroline was born in 1931. In her teens, she would baby-sit and cleaned homes for the neighbours. At about age twenty, she left for Calgary and worked at Safeway until her retirement. She met her future husband, Dave Tyson, at Safeway where he was a meat manager. Dave and Caroline married in October, 1955. When Dave passed away, Caroline moved back to “good ole Canmore” where she still resides. 

Pauline was born in April 1933, and at age fifteen, she quit school to work in Calgary. She worked as an usherette, waitress and in a paper factory. She returned to Canmore when her mother became ill. Pauline worked in Marra’s Grocery and the Drug Store. She met Karl (Henry) Ullrich and they married in 1954. Pauline (nickname Pee Bee – is still used by family and many friends) and Henry managed three different motels in Banff and finally retired in January of 1998. 

Frank was born in October, 1934. When he became sixteen, he began to work at the mine. Following the mine work, he went to the butcher department at Mountview Grocery. Later he was employed at Marra’s Grocery until retirement. Frank met Barbara Allen, a registered nurse from England, and they married in May of 1958. They had two girls, Wendy and Sharon, now residing in Kelowna, B.C. Frank was very active in minor sports, either as a participant or a referee. He also volunteered with the Fire Department in Canmore and for a time was the fire chief.

Leon was born in October of 1938. Following his high school graduation, he worked for Pool Construction. In 1957, he went to the mine and trained as a welder under Lud Kamenka. In 1964, he married Vera Borisenko. They had two children, a son, Stephen, and a daughter, Nadine. They both work and live in Calgary. Leon was an avid hockey player and helped with the minor hockey in Canmore. After the mine closed, Leon went to work at Lafarge in Exshaw as a welder.

Joe was the youngest of the Dyrgas family. He was born in May of 1943, the only child of the family born at the hospital. Joe quit school at age sixteen, and for a short time, worked for Pool Construction before starting at the mine. He married a local girl, Patsy DeKeyser, in 1971 and they had two sons, Michael and Kevin. When the mine shut down, the family moved to Elkford, B.C. In late 1980, they moved to Calgary where they still reside. 

Dyrgas 283 years of service

from left Mike, Tony, Frank, Carol, Leon, Pauline, Joe, sitting Frances, Elsie

Frank Sr. amd Rose Dyrgas, June 1923

Dyrgas girls from left back Elsie, Frances, Mary, Carol; front Rose (mother), Pauline

Dyrgas boys from left Mike, Tony, Joe, Leon, Frank

In Canmore Seniors at the Summit, ed. Canmore Seniors Association, 2000, p. 63-65.

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