"I'm just an ordinary person;
I have no particular talents;
I'm not creative, nor am I an original

At best, I'm a good organizer.
Please don't make me out to be some great

Lillian Torkelson has been a true servant of God all of her life. Like the little boy Samuel, she has listened for the Lord's voice since her earliest childhood. The statement above is what she said to me as we discussed my writing her life's story. I promised her I would not present her as a great person. I don't have to. The realities of her life speak for themselves. She's not perfect. She experiences the same hurts and heartaches, the same regrets and remorse that we all do. The difference perhaps is in her total surrender to the will of God, allowing Him to use her, mistakes and all, to serve others. Her colleagues, her family and friends and her students rise up and call her blessed.


Over and over again you will hear her peers describe her total dedication to serving God. J.C. Bailey describes her passion for the Lord as the ability and determination to walk "straight" through the Bible, "handling it aright", not swerving aside to either legalism or hobbyism. He describes her as a unique character, "There is only one Miss T. She makes no pretense of being scholarly, but she is a natural born teacher. Whatever a person should be in any given situation, she is."

When asked about her influence on her students in particular, and the whole church in general, his immediate response was that the trip to Europe and the Holy Land she was given by those students was visible evidence of their recognition of her impact on their lives. You will read about the extraordinary way her colleagues and students have honoured her on a number of occasions in this book. Following is a portion of the text of the citation that was read when she was named Alumnus of the Year in 1975.
If the true measure of greatness has anything to do with perseverance, dedication, loyalty and devotion, then we honour today a truly great person.

Cecil and Lavine Bailey, who dreamed the original dream of a Christian school with her, told me of their deep respect and love for her:

They know a Lillian few other people do and they're glad of it. With them she had no image to think about. She could just relax and let her hair down, laugh, dream, share her deepest feelings.

Dan Wieb, President Emeritus of Western Christian College, recalls his earliest associations with Lillian:

Roger Peterson, retired principal, doesn't remember when he first met Lillian. He grew up on a farm in the Radville area and does remember the summer and winter Bible schools in the 30's. His days as first a student and then a teacher at RCC brought him into daily contact with her. He is convinced that much of what he has learned about teaching, as well as about life values came from her. He says:


Family is important to Lillian. The love between her and her sisters is strong and deep. She is proud of her family and keeps in very close contact with all of them. Similarly Eleanora and Clarice are proud of what Lillian has achieved and they take delight (as her mother Hulda had done) in the esteem in which she is held by so many. Both of them talked to me about her loving concern for them as well as for their children, the help she gave them to attend teachers college, the many gifts for the nieces and nephews, the financial, emotional and academic support she provided for several of them to attend Western Christian College, and untold other evidences of her commitment to her family. Her sister, Clarice Storle, says:

A nephew, Bob Torkelson, also feels strongly about his Aunt Lill. He says:

Because Clarice's son Orin Storle, his wife Kathy and their children live in Weyburn, they get to see the most of her . Kathy says:

You will hear much about Lillian's lifelong friends, Clarice Hurlburt Mooney and Lavine Jelsing Bailey. They both spoke to me at length about the fineness of their friendships. Lavine talked about Lillian's giving and forgiving nature; Clarice about her loyalty and good nature; both mentioned her integrity and faithfulness.

Hazel Straker's introduction to Lillian was through Pearl Perry in the spring of 1930. When Lillian returned to Perryville again later that summer for Pearl's wedding to Wilfred Orr, Hazel remembers Lillian as a most interesting person, (as well as a beautiful bridesmaid!) She got to know Lillian better two years later when she attended summer Bible school in Radville and remembers well Lillian's skill as she taught the young ladies' class. Their paths crossed many times over the years and when the Strakers moved to Weyburn to work at WCC in 1959, they enjoyed almost daily visits.

But it has been primarily since their retirement that they have become so close. Hazel says:


Early Years

Very early in her career Lillian taught at Model School in the Wawota area of Saskatchewan. She lived with the Walter Husband family and one of her students was their son, Bert Husband, now a retired doctor in the Los Angeles area.
He says:

Ruth Nelson Grasley remembers those Model School days as well. She, like Bert, was one of the correspondence school students Lillian was tutoring and grading their exams. She says:

Another Wawota student, Gerald McPherson, remembers Lillian with great affection. He recently told Doris Husband:

Kathryn Durst Groshong was just into her teens and into the senior room when Lillian began teaching at Lyndale School in Oungre, Saskatchewan. Kathryn recalls:

She talks about Miss Torkelson's ability to turn a history or a literature lesson into a flight to another world, about her gift of being a keen, thoughtful, sympathetic listener, and about her community mindedness. She believes that Lillian had a great effect in shaping her life.

Radville Days

Leo Seibel remembers a cold rainy afternoon in late September, 1946, when he was greeted at the door by Lillian Torkelson. It was the opening day of Radville Christian College. He says:

Louis Pauls was a gospel preacher for forty years before his recent retirement. He and his wife Nellie were early students at Radville Christian College. In 1949, they left jobs in Toronto to study Bible at Radville. Both of them worked as well as studied. Nellie operated the kitchen for a time and Louis fired the furnaces. Miss Torkelson had strict rules about access to the girls dorm, so he enjoys telling that he was the only male allowed to enter ... to tend the furnace, that is!

He recalls taking special English classes under her. He believes she was instrumental in developing his ability to both preach and write, and he still treasures a textbook he used in her class. He says:

Much of what you hear in praise of Lillian concerns her teaching. But there was much more to who she was than that. Although she seldom displays her emotions, you will see that she feels very deeply about people. A woman who was a student of hers in Radville shared the following with me:

She suffered through this alone for several months, until she started to worry about other girls in the dorm who might also need to be seen by that doctor. She finally decided she would have to tell someone, but who? She couldn't tell any of the girls because surely they would be horrified and would condemn her. Somehow the only person she could bring herself to tell was Miss Torkelson.

And what did Miss T. do when this young lady said she needed to talk to her? She took her for one of her well-known walks! And she listened! No third degree, just acceptance. No condemnation, just understanding. No big investigation, just a quiet announcement that in future all girls would be accompanied by a member of the staff or faculty when they visited the doctor. The woman continues:

Weyburn Days

Marilyn Brazle Muller, Dean of Student Life at Western Christian College, considers herself very fortunate to have had Miss Torkelson as one of her major teacher when she and her family first arrived in Canada and at WCC. She says:

Colleen Buchanan Nelson arrived at Western in the fall of 1965, a very reluctant student. For the first eleven years of her school career, she had not been in the habit of doing her homework. With Miss Torkelson's encouragement that changed rather quickly! By the third reporting period she was in third place in her Grade Twelve class.

Another thing she had never done was make a public speech:

There was a duty and honour that went along with third place standing, reading the class Last Will and Testament at the graduation ceremonies. When she realized that she panicked:

Pat Start was one of the last of Lillian's high school students. She had heard about Miss T. long before she got to Western because three of her brothers had been to Western before her. They talked about her with great respect and gratitude; she soon came to realize why. She says:

David Lidbury, retired school administrator, who fits all of the categories we've described - friend, colleague and student - reflects on all of these relationships:

Where does such a person come from? What has made her who she is? Surely there have been many forces involved in the development of Lillian's character and personality.

Published in The Old Paths Archive

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