Life and Times of Caroline Godfrey

pg 467 More Big Hill Country 2009

Caroline Irene Weitzel was born on August 7, 1920, and grew up in Calgary, Alberta in the community of Bridgeland. Caroline had three siblings (Norma, Don, and Helen) and when her mother became ill, she left school at the age of 12 to take care of her sisters and brother. She worked at the Holy Cross Hospital for a period of time while also enjoying some of her athletic pursuits, lacrosse and women’s hockey. Caroline was a member of Calgary’s first all-girls’ hockey team, the Bridgeland-Riverside Red Wings, one of three such teams in the City of Calgary. During this time period, she met her future husband, Cecil Godfrey. They were married on August 31, 1941. Cec was employed by the CPR. at the time and they had three children (Bill, Rick and Janis). Sometime later, Cec was hired by Shell Oil-Jumping Pound Plant. He carpooled back and forth to Calgary for a while and then in 1953 Cec, Caroline and family made the move to Cochrane when Shell Oil built some homes, which the employees could purchase. Cec and Caroline lived in Cochrane in this same house for the rest of their lives. This was the beginning of Caroline’s involvement in the community and in politics. 

Caroline began her community service almost as soon as she arrived in Cochrane. She saw the need for a new elementary school and became part of a group of parents/citizens that facilitated the construction of the Andrew Sibbald Elementary School (now known as Holy Spirit). She also was instrumental in getting Cochrane’s first outdoor swimming pool installed. Caroline served on the Home & School Association and was a member of St. Andrew’s United Church. Whenever she saw a need for volunteers, Caroline was always there. 

Cochrane pool 1960

Once her children were older, Caroline decided that she could now seriously consider getting involved in local politics. In 1963, she was elected as Cochrane’s first female Councillor, which would mark the beginning of her twenty+ years in politics. As one could imagine, politics was predominately a man’s world and she had many major hurdles to overcome because of this. In the early years, what Caroline knew about politics was learned through reading and taking whatever courses were available, but ultimately it was her life experiences and her great leadership qualities that carried her forward. It took a little time, but eventually, Caroline earned the citizen’s and other politicians’ trust and, more importantly, their respect. People may not have always liked everything Caroline said or did, but most people recognized that she was fair and that she really cared about the citizens of Cochrane. 

In March 1964, Caroline was appointed Deputy Mayor, a role she played off and on until the election in 1970 when she ran for the position of mayor. Even though she won by a small majority, she was very proud to become the first elected female mayor in Cochrane. She may even have been the first elected female mayor in all of Alberta. Caroline served two additional terms until 1977 when her husband, Cec, passed away unexpectedly on December 4, 1977. Caroline did not seek re-election until 1980 when she once again was elected Mayor, a position she held until 1983. After this, Caroline did not seek re-election again until 1992 when she served as Town Councillor until 1995, retiring from politics at the age of 75.

Caroline also served as Vice Chairman of the Calgary Regional Planning Commission for 10 years. As well, she was a lifetime member of the Canadian Legion Ladies Auxiliary, served two terms as President of the Big Hill Lodge Senior Citizens Activity Society, and served as a Justice of the Peace for a number of years. Some of Caroline’s many accolades include receiving a distinguished service award from the Alberta Urban 

Municipalities Association for having served more than 20 years on Cochrane’s Municipal Council, the Western Living at its Prime Award for her municipal work and second great passion, gardening, and a special Tribute Tea held July 20, 2002 commemorating Caroline’s 20 years of dedication to the Cochrane Community.

Another special and humbling moment came for Caroline when she was notified on April 22, 2003 that the Town of Cochrane would be naming a local environmental reserve in her honour, to be called the “Caroline Godfrey Park.” Unfortunately, Caroline unexpectedly passed away on July 27, 2003 at the age of 82. The “Park” dedication was held in July 2004. 

On a personal note, Caroline had other talents, one of them being her love of flowers and plants. At one time, she used to nurture over 1500 plants grown from seed in her greenhouse each year. She really had a green thumb, she could make anything grow and often said how good it made her feel to watch plants grow. Caroline’s yard was her pride and joy. Other hobbies included reading, sewing, quilting, homemade preserves, knitting, and crocheting. Caroline had five wonderful grandchildren that she loved unconditionally. 

Caroline’s dedication and love of community lives on in other female Mayor’s and Councillors who came after her and those who are yet to serve their community.

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