Gochee, Jean (Anderson)

(1926-2009)

Buster, the saucy brown horse, was “stepping out” over the five-mile stretch to Hainstock School in the frosty morn. In the saddle was a lithe young lady, leaning into the wind, clutching a freshly plucked chicken under her arm. The rider had suddenly remembered that very morning at 7a.m., that it was her turn to take a soup bone for the pot of soup that was made at school for the children in those days. Sister Helen, who was looking after Jean at the time, rustled a hen from the chicken house, hurriedly plucked its feathers, eviscerated it and stuffed it into a paper sack for her to take to school.

Jean has been riding into the wind, facing life’s challenges and volunteering her strengths to the community ever since her famous ride. Her faith and her internal inspiration have provided her with courage and self-discipline, the tools she has used to govern her life these 78 years.

Marjorie Jean Anderson was born in Olds, Alberta on December 30, 1926 in one of the Maternity Homes that were in Olds in the early years. Jean is the daughter of Rebecca Maxwell-Anderson and Milford Anderson. She has an older stepsister, Helen Pearson, who helped guide her through the early years. Jean’s parents were “the matches that lit the candle of her future.” Her father said to her, “Get your education. No one can take that away from you.”

Her mother, a teacher, went back teaching west of Winfield, and at Water Valley to put their daughter through high school because students would have to board in Olds to go to grade twelve. Jean boarded at the home of Mrs. Carter. That was a great sacrifice for her father, to have his wife away, and for her mother to leave their family each week. Her mother later taught at many schools in the area including Harmattan where she taught with Mr.Beiber.

Jean graduated from high school in 1945, the year the war ended. She recalls driving around Olds with Mel Brown in a carload of teenagers on VE- Day, when WW 11 was officially over. It was a day to be remembered all over the world. The 60th Anniversary of VE-Day, 2005, has also been celebrated all over the world, probably for the last time with such dimension. Jean has seen both of them happen.

Following graduation, Jean went to Calgary to University. It was the first year that the former Normal School became University and it was held in the Technical School today known as SAIT.

In her early years, Jean lived on the farm which was just one half mile from Barry Dale School west of Olds where she completed grades one to nine. Her teacher was Jim Aldrich, a cousin. Mr. Eber Crummy also came to teach at Barry Dale. His wife was Jean’s piano teacher. Jean was a December birthday and in those days, there was a “Head Start” program that allowed the children to start at Easter. Later, as a result of the head start, Jean skipped grade four. Jean enjoyed her years at Barry Dale.

School Picnics were highlights of the year and Jean recalls the first time she had watermelon at a picnic. There is still picture in her mind’s eye of biting into that luscious red melon. Louise Richardson, Jean’s best friend from Barry Dale, was one year ahead of, her blazing the trail for Jean at Hainstock.

Jean went to Hainstock for grades ten and eleven. Miss Kirker was the Home Ec. teacher who lived in a two-room building, the kitchen of which was a “lean to” attached to the school. That is where Miss Kirker taught Home Ec. and where the soup was made when Jean made her infamous ride with the chicken under her arm.

At home, in the winter, Jean went to stay with the Marshes. It was great fun skating on Innis Lake. Jean would flash across the ice wearing speed skates that were ordered from the Eaton’s Catalogue. Mel Brown drove them at night to go skating. There was certain magic to riding in the back of the truck and skating in the darkness. Her father was not so sure about skating in the dark as he was terribly worried that they would drop into a muskrat run and drown.

Summer time was ball season and Jean played in the outfield on the Hainstock Ladies’s Team along with Mary Reid. Playing ball has always been a fond memory in the country girl’s life.

The years rolled along and this brings Jean’s story back to her first teaching position when the young Miss Anderson had graduated from University and there was a teaching assignment at the Eidswold School, south west of Bergen. Mrs. Irene Halvorson was on maternity leave expecting her daughter Marilyn, the author of “Cowboys Don’t Cry.” There were 17 students in grades one to nine.

One particular day, Miss Anderson set about tidying up the washstand where the basin and the water cooler sat. She had a premonition that Mr. Crispo, the superintendent, a man she remembered from her elementary days as being very strict, would arrive, and he did. It was much easier to teach with a tidy washstand! Miss. Anderson passed inspection.

In 1947, Jean began teaching grade one in Sundre and over the years moved to grade four, then grade five and back to grade four. The first year in Sundre she met a man named Orville Gochee. This particular quote explains the occurrence: “It is believed that Jean started her long and illustrious career in volunteering as the President of the now-defunct Sundre Sports League, where she met her future husband, Orville, who was vice president. Perhaps this was the beginning of the realization that volunteering could not only be fun, but life-changing!”

Indeed, it was changing. Jean and Orville were married in 1948 in the Olds United Church. Vienna Marie arrived in June 1949, followed by her sister Helen Winifred in 1950 and their brother Robert Neal in 1952. Between the births of the children, Jean managed to fill in for parts of the school terms at Harmattan and at schools in the area.

Music has been a part of Jean’s life as a child and in the raising of her own family. There was always a piano in her home and the children took lessons. Jean played the piano in her classroom at school. She is remembered by her colleagues as a dedicated teacher and the one who played the piano. Jean was a teacher who possessed that inner discipline “to stick to it.” She was task oriented and used time wisely. Organization was the key element. She seemed to have an internal inspiration to give to others. She gave of herself and of her profession, to students and to colleagues, for the good of everyone.

Mrs. Gochee stands out in everyone’s memory as a sophisticated lady. She dressed becomingly and seemed to have the right jewellery for each outfit. She had a creative flair in everything she undertook. That flair, and her genteel manners and lovely smile made her stand out, even though she very quietly went about her work. Today, Mrs. Gochee still portrays a quiet, dignified charisma. She is a lady of elegance.

Jean’s teaching career spanned 29 years until she retired in Sundre in 1978. Jean did move with her husband Orville to Strathmore to teach from 1961 to 1963 when they owned the Soft Ice-Cream Stand, which they sold to return to Sundre.

One might say that Jean Gochee appears to be a frail lady with her silver hair, slender body and unhurried pace, but that would be only an illusion. She is a courageous woman of the Aspenland, one who has relied on her faith to carry her through difficult times. Her husband Orville was helping to build a road at the Ranger Station west of town when the caterpillar he was driving went over an embankment. Orville died as a result of a head injury in the accident in 1984.

Their daughter, Vienna, passed away in 1996 after a three-year battle with cancer. Vienna’s children, Joel and Shaina are now young adults living in Calgary near their father who has done a remarkable job of raising them.

Win and her husband, living in B.C., suffered a house fire that took the life of their little girl, Genelle. Win and her husband, both badly burned, recovered in the burn unit of the hospital. Happily, two more children were born. Tragedy was to strike again when the vehicle Win’s husband was driving went off the road near Golden B.C. and he lost his life. Jean and Win did not cave in. They did what they had to do. They walked through the sad times with Win’s daughter Rochelle and Win’s son Barry who required their guidance. Once again, Jean drew upon her inner strength and walked quietly through their grieving. She did not collapse.

Win has remarried and she and her husband live in Canmore where she works in an Art Shop that specializes in picture framing. Barry is also in Canmore. Rochelle is on an extended stay in South America.

Neal, who lives in Penticton, B.C. has a special interest in photography, which brings out his artistic bent. He has donated one of his pictures of the “Sunpine Fire” to the Sundre and District Museum, which is for sale, proceeds to go to the museum.

There are pictures on the walls in Jean’s home painted by Vienna. There are photographs taken by Neal and framed by Win. There are beautiful paintings on the wall of every room, many done by the famous painters of Sundre. The love of the arts is the heart of her home. There are even lovely fridge magnets aligned in neat rows on the door. Nothing helter-skelter about Jean Gochee.

Jean moved into Wildrose Court in 1994. She has taken some very interesting trips. She has been to Cuba and to Ireland. Pam Erickson joined her on a trip to Nashville, Tennessee and on another to the Grande Canyon and others on the “Canyon Trip.” Jean is thinking of another trip to the British Isles.

Jean Gochee is 78 years old and one wonders about her energy and enthusiasm she displays in her real job of volunteering. She has two secrets. One is her faith in her higher power. The second is exercise. Every morning she gets out for at least one half hour of walking along her various routes around town. She returns home to put on an exercise video that covers exercises for all the muscles and joints in the body. What really makes life “tic” is Jean’s internal voice that calmly says, “Do it.”

It is not surprising that Jean continues to work for Christian Women’s. She was at the first organizational meeting of the group at Helen Morgan’s home on February 22, 1982.
She has worked on the Executive and currently does the telephoning to organize the table hostesses.


Jean was honored as “2004 Service Person of the Year” by the Sundre and District Chamber of Commerce. The following is the story that was written by those who nominated Jean. The article was composed by a group of women who know her, who admire her and who love her.

Category: Sundre