A few thoughts on naming things after people

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Readers may have noticed ads in The Leader asking for suggestions on who (or what) to name things after in Slave Lake. Parks, trails, recreational facilities – that sort of thing.
This is not a new process, of course. Things have been named before, mainly after prominent citizens who invested a lot of time, energy and sometimes money into improving the community. Hence ‘Schurter Park,’ after ‘Mr. Slave Lake’ Charlie Schurter, and ‘E.G. Wahlstrom School,’ after community leader and education promoter Gunnar Wahlstrom.
Sinclair Fields is another example.
When it comes to town-owned facilities, it is ultimately up to town council to make the call. But council wants advice, and off and on it has had a ‘naming committee’ to provide it. This committee has recently been re-established by the town. Its first order of business was to consider and recommend a name for the town’s trail system. The recommendation was to name it for the man largely responsible for getting the paved trails done – former mayor Gerry Allarie.
Who else deserves to be so honoured? One name that has come up lately is Laura M. Attrux, the legendary district health nurse who served in Slave Lake in the 1950s and 60s. A lot of local oldtimers will remember ‘Miss Attrux’ as she was known. A lot were probably delivered into this world by her. It is said she helped in the birth of over 1,000 babies in her time in Slave Lake. And that was only a small (but important) part of what she did.
Her smallest patient – so the stories go – was a pet canary with a broken wing; she splinted it with a toothpick. Her largest was a farm horse with a deep muscle gash.
Attrux was a de facto doctor in the area – doing everything from minor surgeries to dentistry to counselling. She was a tough, funny, devoted person and a friend to many – saving lives and improving lives every day of her professional life. She could have had a comfortable career as an instructor in a city teaching hospital – in fact had done that work – but where she loved to be was out in the field, helping people.
Attrux was recognized in 1970 by way of an honorary doctorate from the University of Alberta. By then she was nearing retirement and had been district nurse in High Level for a few years. Besides there and Slave Lake she had served in Valleyview, Whitecourt, Smith, Wabasca, Swan Hills and Paddle Prairie. But her longest stint (actually two stints) was in Slave Lake, where she became somewhat legendary in the community.
But what can you name after a nurse? Some ideas are floating around. Stay tuned. We’ll get back to you after the next meeting of the naming committee.

Legendary district health nurse Laura Attrux. She has a scholarship named in her honour; how about naming a community facility after her?

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