When someone is identified as a natural organizer, certain images come to mind. First thoughts are of a no-nonsense, detail oriented and dedicated person. This description accurately fits Mrs. Edith T Southard who was indeed a born organizer. She will be remembered as being involved in many activities and for often assuming a leadership role . She was a person who always carried a strong sense of duty with her throughout her life. Possessed with traditional "old school" morals, Edith was an individual who clearly communicated to those around her just who she was and what she was all about. Everyone acquainted with Edith knew her as a well-respected woman who was a stable force in her community.
Edith was born on February 18, 1914 at at the family home in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. Her parents were Frederick A. A. and Esther Bateman Tesch. Edith was raised in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. As a young girl, Edith was able to put her natural leadership abilities to work. In her role as big sister to Charles and Albert, she tried to make sure that her brothers did what they should do and that they avoided those things they weren't supposed to. This didn't always work out perfectly and Edith could remember having to bear the responsibility for those times. One of her fondest memories was coming home from school as a young girl to learn that she had a new baby brother.
As a young girl, Edith enjoyed school and her music pursuits. She took part in basketball and volleyball, particularly liking volleyball. She was a member of the church choir and took piano and voice lessons. Edith attended W.F. Begley Elementary School on Assumption Street.
In school, Edith was as close to being a model student as one could possibly imagine. She would eagerly complete her homework, and often put in extra study time when she felt it was necessary. A logical and focused thinker, Edith was always good at following directions. Edith's personal motto could well have been, "Do it right the first time." She graduated from Windsor Collegiate Institute in 1931. Her favorite class in high school was English. The teachers she enjoyed learning from the most were her piano and voice teachers at the Ursuline Academy, fondly remembering Mother Marguerite. Edith was always known as a good student throughout her school years, advancing to a higher grade level during her elementary years. This sometimes made it difficult for her brothers to follow her with teachers' expectations.
Edith's practical work ethic carried over into her normal school (teaching college) years. Her logical mind permitted her to work hard and succeed. This was important to her because her family made a lot of sacrifices in order for her to have room, board and bus fare during the depression years. She had wanted to attend business college, but the family could not afford it and normal school had no tuition during those years. She earned her teaching certificate in London, Ontario, Canada in 1933. She also furthered her education by taking night classes and summer school.
Edith was sociable and approachable. Because she was always so straightforward in how she approached relationships, friends and family knew that what they saw was what they got. She enjoyed the camaraderie of being with a group of friends and sharing a good laugh. When Edith was a member of a group, she was known as a hard worker who was dependable. Those close to Edith came to expect her high standards of performance. While growing up, some of her best friends were the Riddle girls and the Schrums and as a young adult, Sally Bockwell Brown, fellow teachers and friends in the RCAF. Later she became friends with neighbor Peggy Martin, Bob and Dorothea Crocker and all her bowling friends through the years, including Kay Zier, Elsie Agee, Dot Callendar and Bob and Vi Brownell.
Edith took great pleasure in being a mother. She maintained a firm hand and also had the ability to enforce the rules as needed to ensure that her daughter was properly raised. Edith was blessed with one child living, Jane, and one stillborn baby, Linda. She was also blessed with three grandchildren, Rachel, Beth and Becky and three great-grandchildren, Hannah, Abram and Pax. She delighted in being a part of her grandchildren's activities and taught them their first year of piano lessons. It was important to her to help and support their educational pursuits and activities.
Being a hard worker who praised efficiency, Edith was always striving to make improvements where they were necessary. She was able to analyze situations and problems, keeping everything and everyone on track. An excellent project supervisor, Edith was a person who could quickly make decisions based on the information available. She worked cooperatively and expected the same from her colleagues. In both her personal and professional environments, Edith upheld her standards. Her primary occupation was being a teacher and then a bookkeeper. She was employed for two years at Patterson High School while waiting for a teaching job. She taught kindergarten-primary at Prince Edward Elementary School until she entered the military in 1943. After the war she worked at Harper Hospital in Detroit as an admissions clerk. After she moved to Montana, she worked at Tesch Plumbing and Heating as a bookkeeper and parts clerk for over 50 years. Edith was a team player who certainly lived out the motto of "give me a job, and I will get it done."
Edith was a veteran of the Royal Canadian Air Force, Women's Division. When World War II came about, she felt strongly that she wanted to help. Her sense of duty helped lead her into the military where her understanding of rank, her willingness to abide by rules and regulations and her desire to follow orders helped her to succeed. Because of her dual citizenship, she could have served in either the Canadian or U.S. forces but at that time, Canadian women were being allowed to join before American women were able to so she joined the RCAF. She was in the Women's Division from 1943 to 1945 and was stationed in Montreal, Quebec and London, Ontario. She received several awards, including a two medals for voluntary service. She was a WOG (Wireless Operator Ground) and a morse code instructor. The motto of the Women's Division was "We serve, that men may fly". She was always very proud of her service and ranked that time as a highlight of her life. She never thought of herself as being a "pioneer" for women everywhere, and as this was pointed out to her, she would say "I just wanted to help".
Edith approached her leisure time in the same manner that she approached her life. A person who enjoyed being neat and orderly and one who understood the nature of things, she appreciated the hours she was able to devote to her various hobbies. Her favorite pursuits were listening to the Opera and other classical music, knitting, sewing garments, bowling, canning and freezing produce. She enjoyed working crossword puzzles throughout her life. Edith was content to enjoy her favorite pastimes alone but was also willing to share her interests with others.
Playing by the rules was a natural thing for Edith to do in life and that carried over to her enjoyment of sports. In school, Edith played volleyball. A big part of her recreational activities included bowling. She was an avid bowler for many years and continued to keep score after she could no longer bowl. She frequently served as a league secretary and enjoyed "coaching" other bowlers. She also was something of a sports fan and enjoyed watching her favorite events, including the Olympics, whenever she got the opportunity. Tops on her list were watching her granddaughters playing volleyball, basketball and swimming.
Being generous with her time and energy, Edith belonged to a variety of groups and organizations. She was a vocal leader who enjoyed being a part of things. Her desire to uphold traditions and her ability to take charge of any type of project made her a tremendous asset. In college, Edith joined a sorority. Throughout her adult years, Edith was an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary, Women of the Moose, Soroptomists and Alanon. She served as chairperson organizing meal service and the annual rodeo concession stand. She very much enjoyed attending Legion Auxiliary conventions and serving as a district officer.
A civic-minded person, Edith was usually ready to jump in and help with community activities. She was the type of person who could masterfully organize events and projects and then see to it that they were run in an efficient and timely manner. Politically, Edith was involved and informed, reading and keeping abreast of current events and politics. She was very proud of the fact that she could vote and made sure that she voted in every election.
Faith was important to Edith. She was a member of the Presbyterian church as a young person and the Methodist Church in later years . During that time, she was a singer in the choir and directed the youth choir.
Individual recognition wasn't a motivating force for Edith; rather, when she saw that there was a need to get something done, she was more than willing to give her time and energy in order to see it accomplished. Some of her most prestigious awards included being awarded the lifetime membership in the American Legion Auxiliary, having served as a district president and being an active member for over 60 years. She was also awarded a plaque for serving as a bowling scorekeeper from 1956 to 2008.
Edith was always ready to travel and especially loved to fly. She especially enjoyed her travels to the RCAF Women's Division reunions. The trip to Newfoundland was her favorite and she also went to Montreal, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Toronto and others. She made two trips to the Windsor/Detroit area after her move to Montana. She was always ready for a trip to her granddaughter's events around the state and to Minnesota and Washington. She and her daughter enjoyed several trips to Canada together. She traveled twice with her husband to Nebraska to see his family. She could recall from her childhood trips out to Montana to see her grandmother in the Ford Model T touring car. The car served as a camper for the family and she talked of the travel between Fairfield and Bole before there were roads and of how you just went over the top of the hill and hoped for the best.
Edith enjoyed having several pets. One of Edith's favorites was a family dog named Fluffy. Her family was rounded out by the family dog, Prince and cats, Boots and Silver.
When Edith's retirement finally arrived at the age of 94 due to health reasons, it left a big hole in her life. Her work was very important to her and she greatly valued the time spent working with her brother, Albert and her father in the plumbing shop. She enjoyed the contact with the public through her work and keeping things organized. She was always proud when the auditor could find no mistakes in her bookkeeping.
Edith passed away on November 23, 2013 at Teton Medical Center Extended Living Center in Choteau, Montana from natural causes. She is survived by her daughter Jane, son-in-law David, brother Albert Tesch, granddaughters Rachel of Boston, Beth of Minneapolis, Becky of Choteau and great-grandchildren Hannah, Abram and Pax Martin of Choteau. She was preceded in death by her parents Fred and Esther Tesch, husband Calvin and brother Charles. Memorial Services will be held on what would have been her 100th birthday, at 2:00pm Tuesday, February 18, 2014 at Gorder Jensen Funeral Home. Edith was cremated and will be laid to rest in the Choteau Cemetery in Choteau, Montana.
All who knew her would agree that Edith was a pillar of the community. When asked once how she wanted to be remembered, she replied "as a friend". She lived life with her feet firmly on the ground. She had a strong work ethic, was practical and conservative in her thoughts and acts and constantly sought the means for self-improvement. She was willing to share her ideas and knowledge for the benefit of others, so that they could accomplish more in their lives. Mrs. Edith T. Southard did her best to ensure that her family, friends, loved ones, co-workers, and everyone whose life she touched was given the chance to become a better person.