Colleen Greer of High Prairie has been inspired by the dedication of her family to help make her community a better place.
As the eldest of five children of Stan and Verda Kozie, she started her life in the Gilwood area, south of High Prairie.
Stan and Verda Kozie Family
Colleen was born in High Prairie in 1951 as the first of five children of Stan and Verda Kozie.
They were married Oct. 4, 1950 in St. Mark’s Anglican Church in High Prairie.
They became parents to five children as Colleen was followed by Stanley (Eddy) in 1953, Brenda in 1954, Tim in 1957 and Sandra in 1967.
Her father Stan became a mechanic by trade and worked for Vanderaegans at the garage Modern Motors, and then in a lumber camp for Floyd Smith.
In 1953, they moved to McLennan where he got a job at a garage, before he became employed with Northern Alberta Railway as a fireman to shovel coal for the steam engines until 1958.
Back to High Prairie in 1957, the Kozies made their home on the south side of the railway tracks near downtown.
Even the children were involved in the family business Kozie Catering that her mother operated from 1963-1989.
For some occasions, the Kozies fed up to 500 people for banquets and weddings.
Stan worked at Ike’s Modern Motors and then on to High Prairie School Division, General Service Garage, and in farming.
Owning land in the south industrial area, he started to build th Auction Mart in 1979 and took 10 years to complete.
Colleen’s parents also served the community in various organizations.
Stan joined the High Prairie Volunteer Fire Department in 1947 and High Prairie Elks in 1949.
He served as exalted ruler in 1981-82 and on the stampede committee that built the facilities for the High Prairie Elks Pro Rodeo.
Verda joined the Royal Purple in 1950.
Leading the way for her daughter Colleen decades later, she became Royal Honoured Lady in 1962-63 and 1985-87, and then served as District (No. 2) Deputy for District 2, which covers branches from Slave Lake to Valleyview.
The Kozie family has long been part of St. Mark’s Anglican Church, with family roots deep.
Verda was a member of Anglican Church Women (ACW) until it dissolved in the 1960s.
Grandparents Stan and Antonia
Colleen’s grandparents Stan and Antonia Kozie came from Poland to High Prairie in 1929 to a homestead in the Gilwood area five miles south of the town, and lived a few years in a log cabin.
For a sum of $5, he purchased the land, Colleen says.
She still has many memories of life on the farm as a young child.
“I remember being out with the threshing crews when I was about four or five years old,” Colleen says.
“We kids would go out to call the men in for lunch and then we would sit on top of the stooks on the hay rack on the way back.
“You were pretty high, sitting like the queen of the world 10 feet high.”
Now 60 years later, Colleen still has fond memories of Grandma Kozie.
“She had a heart of gold,” Colleen recalls.
“All the animals on the farm were her pets and she would milk the cows wherever and whenever.”
Picking berries was a thrill for the young children on the farm where grandma had acres of garden.
“We picked blueberries, raspberries, and Saskatoon berries,” Colleen says.
“It wasn’t work, it was fun.”
When the current building of St. Mark’s Anglican was constructed in 1936, Grandpa Kozie worked on the roof, Colleen says.
Grandpa and Grandma Wolfe
On her mother’s side of the family, Colleen’s grandparents John and Hazel Wolfe farmed six miles north of town.
“I remember grandma sewing on her treadle sewing machine,” Colleen says.
As a student starting home economic, the young teen helped her grandmother, who one time had difficulty setting in a sleeve.
“I showed her how to do it, and I sewed on that machine,” Colleen says.
Grandpa Wolfe had a big red barn that still seems to live with her.
“That barn had such a comfortable smell with horses and hay,” Colleen says.
“Anytime I smell horses and hay, I’m right back in that barn.”
Family of Larry Greer
Colleen and her husband Larry Greer make their home about three kilometres east of High Prairie on land that has been in the Greer family for more than 100 years.
Larry is the eldest of five children of Howard and Helen Greer, they were married in October 1950. Helen grew up in Swan Valley, south of Kinuso.
Larry’s great-grandparents Bill and Lillian Greer moved in 1903 to Edmonton from Maryland and then in 1913 to High Prairie at NW-16-74-16.
Larry majored in both agricultural economics and animal nutrition.
He graduated from the University of Alberta in 1973 with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture.
In 1975, Larry and Colleen returned to the farm, forming the corporation L&H Cattle Company Ltd.
The company ran the cattle-feeding aspect of the farming operation and in 1980 purchased all the assets of Howard and Helen Greer, so that the entire operation was operated as a corporation.
The company was structured to allow other members of the family to participate if they desired, which included Howard, Helen, Larry, David, and Diane.
Back in the mid 1990s, the farm operated as a mixed farming operation in conjunction with a 2,000-head cattle feedlot and a 200-head cow/calf operation.
Love and marriage
Colleen Kozie married Larry Greer in 1971, after being longtime school classmates.
“We were high school sweethearts,” Colleen says.
“We had been in the same class since Grade 7.”
They found their chemistry in a science project.
“In Biology 20, we were supposed to dissect a frog and I didn’t want to touch it,” Colleen recalls.
“So I asked Larry to be my lab partner.
“That was a bold move, and the rest is history.”
Together, they became parents to one son and two adopted daughters.
When their son Scott died at the young age of 14 in 1988 in a quad crash, the young couple was surrounded by love and care all around, to help them cope with the lose of their only child.
“The community supported and comforted the family very wonderfully,” Colleen says.
“Larry and I had a good relationship and we were able to discuss it.
“After the initial shock, we wanted to have a family and we decided to adopt.”
They became the adopted parents to two sisters from Edmonton; Lisa, aged six and Melissa, aged three.
“It was an open adoption, so we have custody with the family and that’s a positive for us and them,” Colleen says.
Melissa and her husband Jared live in Sylvan Lake with their two-year-old son Zach.
She is finishing her fourth year of studies for a Bachelor of Business.
Lisa lives in Edmonton.
Her granddaughter Brooke has been in the guardianship of Colleen and Larry since she was eight months old.
Brooke is a Grade 8 student in Prairie River Junior High School in High Prairie.
“They have all been a joy,” Colleen says.
Growing Up and School Days
After she completed Grade 1 in McLennan, Colleen started Grade 2 at High Prairie Elementary School, and moved through Prairie River Junior-Senior High School and then graduated in 1969.
With about 40 students in the class, the valedictorian was a young man named Larry Greer, who would later become her husband.
“We were the first graduating class of E.W. Pratt High School,” Greer says.
She fondly remembers Pratt as a teacher when she was in grades 10-12.
“One memory is that we had E.W. Pratt for math,” Greer says.
“He had very high standards for his students and you did everything you could do to live up to those standards.”
Already from her school days, she was active with leadership, serving on the students’ union, although she can’t remember the positions she held.
While growing up, she was active in Sunday school at St. Mark’s Anglican Church, Girl Guides and with High Prairie Figure Skating Club.
But her first love was books and studies.
“I loved school,” Colleen says.
“I can remember every June when the school year was over, I made my younger siblings go to school and I would be the teacher.”
“I would give assignments to them, until they escaped.”
Colleen the Teacher
Colleen returned to her alma mater E.W. Pratt in 1976 to start teaching until she officially retired in 2011, after a career of 32 years.
She started teaching home economics in clothing and textiles, then taught other subjects such as math, English, and Career and Life Management (CALM), and also worked as a counselor for six years.
As times and technology changed over the decades, she recalls how much effort and labour it would take to produce copies of worksheets before the advent of computers.
“I remember using a Gestetner machine to make copies of handwritten notes or exams,” Colleen says.
Text on the pages was also created with typewriters, which were mainly manual, although some were electric.
Even as students learned the basic skills of typing in those days, it was quite a task for teachers.
“We as teachers spent four days teaching students how to centre textcopy on a page,” Colleen says.
“Now, it’s at the click of a mouse.”
Serving community a priority
Colleen Greer has been active in various community organizations including Royal Purple Elks, a founding member of High Prairie Quilt Guild and longtime member of St. Mark’s Anglican Church.
“My philosophy is if you’re going to be in an organization, serve on the executive,” Colleen says.
“I grew up with my parents both active in the community,”
“It was part of the Kozie family to be involved in the community.”
That has been engrained in her heart.
“I live in High Prairie and want it to be a good community to live, for me, my children and my grandchildren, and other people,” Colleen says.
“And you do that by getting involved, no matter the challenges.”
“I will outlast it and keep on going.”
She credits her parents as model mentors with a strong work ethic that inspired her to lead a life to serve her family and community.
“It was watching them work hard,” she says.
“As the oldest child in the family, there was no doubt that I would look after my siblings.
She recalls she and her siblings always had something to do as they became mature and responsible and kept busy in their mother’s catering business that she operated for more than 25 years.
“It was fun,” Colleen says.
“Some of my younger memories were clerking at the auction with my dad.”