Sparwood marks passing of Loretta Montemurro
All flags were lowered to half-mast on Tuesday, August 5, to mark the passing of former District of Sparwood Clerk/Administrator Loretta Montemurro, who served the community for 35 years, from 1961- 1996. Mayor and Council and all District staff extend their sincere condolences to Loretta’s family and friends for their loss.
Mayor Lois Halko stated, “Loretta is a legend in our community with her 35 years of continuous service. Amongst many things, she will be remembered for her work in the Natal – Michel Urban Renewal Program. That project took about a decade to complete during the 1960s and culminated with the creation of the District of Sparwood. She was one of few females in a male dominated profession during that time; a lady whose strong opinions helped through many difficult negotiations. Loretta loved Sparwood and I am so pleased that we had the opportunity to honour her by presenting her with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal at our Awards Banquet in December, 2012.”
Last summer a university professor from the City of Calgary, Tom Langford, interviewed Loretta for a publication on the urban renewal project and mining history of the Elk Valley and Crowsnest Pass. The following is an excerpt from those interviews.
Loretta grew up in an area of seven or eight homes on coal company land beside the Michel Creek. Loretta’s family was flooded out in 1948. Then after the 1952 flood they moved up the mountain slope to Michel Creek Road and settled again on leased coal company land. She lived there for most of her adult life. “It was beautiful living out there, especially in the summer,” she said. “I would have never given it up if I could have handled it.”
Eventually living up the mountain slope became too much work for her, especially with all of the snow. This is why she eventually sold the family home and moved down into the valley during her retirement years.
She left school in Grade 11, went to work in the bank, and then travelled with friends to Europe for four months. At the time they were the youngest people travelling that they ran into. She then moved to Pincher Creek, working part-time in the hospital. At that time she had to get money from her mother to supplement her meager wages.
Loretta began her career in Local Government as the Clerk for the Village of Natal. She was working in a part-time position at a hospital in Pincher Creek “and this position came up in Natal; and Natal at that time had about 800 people, a small village, and it was basically two streets straddling the highway, and coal used to be hauled right down that highway from one end to the other. Anyway, I applied and eventually got the job on the condition that I took a four-year correspondence course. UBC had a course out at that time, which wasn’t specific for administration – but it was economics, finance, treasury and administration to a small scale. I’d never been to a council meeting; I didn’t know anything about the job. But they had a lot of patience with me, the council was pretty good at that time.”
She got the Village of Natal clerk job in 1961, taking over from Jack Turner. It was a part-time clerk job but went to full-time later when she took on extra jobs like issuing of motor vehicle licenses. After the District of Sparwood was formed in 1966, she became its first clerk, with the job title eventually becoming chief administrative officer. She worked for the District of Sparwood until her retirement in 1996.
When the municipality first moved into the District of Sparwood office, the staff was just Loretta and two administrative assistants.
“To tell you the truth I don’t know what all of these people do now. Maybe things have changed, maybe they have more responsibilities, I don’t know. Things are a lot different than when I worked. I had my hands on everything. I believed in giving out work, in delegating, but always in control,” she said.
Loretta particularly enjoyed managing the development of land in Sparwood and then would sell the lots. “I did it all.” She liked when the District developed its own land because “we made money off of it. The taxpayers got the benefit of that. That’s what I thought was the right thing to do. We got millions of dollars, that’s where it came from.”
Loretta told a funny story about her first meeting with Edgar Kaiser [probably in 1968]. “I remember him coming into the village office in Natal and wondering what the hold up was with the urban renewal and land assembly projects. And I remember telling him he had to move his car because it was in front of our fire truck. And I didn’t know who he was. He was in blue jeans and sneakers. He said, ‘I want to talk to you,’ and I said, ‘I’m sorry, but first you’ve got to move your car, it’s in front of the fire truck.’”
Outside of work she was passionate about international travel. During her vacations she took many trips to Europe, to South America, to the South Pacific, China and Israel. She was disappointed that her health problems during her retirement years prevented her from continuing her international travels.
In keeping with Loretta’s wishes, no service will be held. Friends may sign an online guestbook at www.cherishedmemoriesfs.com
District of Sparwood