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After seventy years, classmates reconnect
across the hall

May 29th, 2019

Rita (Robideau) Boyer and Hildegaard (Lange) Campsall were both born in Grande Prairie Alberta. They met in their first year at the Grande Prairie High School where they were in the same home-room and became friends. Now, seven decades later, they have reconnected, across the hall in the Independent Supportive Living suites at Points West Living Peace River. Here is how their separate journeys brought them together again.

Rita's story

Rita grew up on a farm in Bezanson about 35 km east of Grand Prairie. When she finished elementary school, she was determined to attend high school, but her parents couldn’t afford to transport her to Grande Prairie for school. So Rita boarded with a local family and earned her keep by cleaning and babysitting.

“I was very determined,” says Rita. “I graduated from GPHS in 1952, and in the evening took a shorthand course which led to a job as a secretary at the Bank of Montreal.” It was then that she met her ‘handsome man’ husband Ray, a construction engineer, and they married and raised three sons (the oldest died of leukemia at the age of 40). When Ray passed away, “four months before our 60th anniversary in 2016, I wasn’t well and my son talked me in to moving here to Peace River. It was a huge move for me because I’d lived all my life in Grande Prairie. I’ve adjusted well. My son and his wife take very good care of me, and my brother and wife are here as well and my sister comes to visit from Bezanson. I do get back to Grande Prairie for the over 80’s dinner.” 

Hildegaard's story

Hildegaard grew up in Grande Prairie, and once she graduated from high school, she went to University of Alberta and got a degree in nursing. She graduated in 1957, and says, “I had a bursary to work off, so I came up north and got a job in Peace River. They were just forming the health unit then and I started work in public health with home care and rehab.

“One thing I did find up north (in Peace River, 200 km northeast of Grande Prairie) was Robert Campsall, and he wouldn’t take no for an answer,” laughs Hildegaard. “He helped his father run the family store in Peace River – Campsall’s Store. We got married and started having kids (three daughters), and I worked but didn’t get paid. Later on, the health unit talked me into coming back as a field nurse, and I ended up as director of the health unit which started (in the west) at the BC border, (east) to Loon Lake and (north) up to the North West Territories. I’ve seen every bush road there is!”

Their paths crossed again

Such different paths crossed again about two-and-a-half years ago. “I saw Hildegaard at seniors’ bridge one night at the seniors’ centre,” says Rita, “and I said ‘Hildegaard Lange, I know you!’ She said ‘You look familiar,’ and we chatted about friends in common. Now here she is across the hall.”

It's kind of amazing

“It’s kind of amazing,” says Rita. “It really takes me back. I dug out all my yearbooks – I have them here – and I’ve gone through them looking at other friends I’ve lost contact with, and I’m thinking of them now.”

Photo: Classmates from seventy years ago in Grande Prairie, Rita Boyer and Hildegaard Campsall now live across the hall from each other at PWL Peace River.

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