Skip to content

Councillor protests sale of “historic” home in Athabasca

Town of Athabasca councillors vote 6-1 to appraise Dr. Brown’s house for sale, but remain cognizant of her legacy to the community
While it might be unassuming nowadays, this building was once home to a titan of the community, Dr. Josephine Brown. As town council decides what to do with the building, Coun. Ida Edwards wants to make sure that Dr. Brown’s legacy isn’t forgotten.

ATHABASCA – It’s not uncommon to hear people refer to politics as performative, but Town of Athabasca Coun. Ida Edwards took it one step further as she broke out a fake cigarette (and a bag full of real ones) along with a pre-written speech/song combination protesting the sale of a house willed to the town by Dr. Josephine Brown more than a decade ago.

At the March 21 town council meeting, administration brought a request to appraise the property for an eventual sale, with council voting 6-1 in favour.  The property, a single-story building located at 4817 49th Street was willed to the town by Dr. Josephine Brown following her death in 2010 and has had the same tenant since. Now that the tenant is moving out at the end of April, the question of “what now?” looms for the municipality.

“I will speak against this motion, because I do protest it,” said Edwards, as she posed with a fake cigarette and ashtray at the table normally reserved for delegations. “This house was given to use in 2010 from the will of Dr. Josephine Brown and is an example of post-war modern design. This house tells a unique story of the development of healthcare in Athabasca. This is a gift from an incredible human being.”

Edwards, who graduated with a Bachelor of Music in Voice from the University of Alberta, followed up her speech by performing a small parody of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s 1969 hit Proud Mary.

Edwards’s words clearly held some weight as the rest of council agreed that there should be something done to honour Dr. Brown’s legacy, but they just weren’t sure what it would be. Mayor Rob Balay summed it up by saying “the only thing that is different about this (house) is that it was the home of a significant lady in our community, but that can be honoured, and not necessarily the house.”

“I appreciate everything you (Edwards) said, and it should be somewhere that people can read it. But I asked lots of people if they knew where Josephine Brown lived, and not one could tell me,” added Coun. Edie Yuill.

Dr. Brown bio

Dr. Josephine Brown moved to Athabasca in 1947 following her graduation from the University of Alberta’s School of Medicine. She spent the next 40 years practicing medicine in the region, doing everything from delivering babies, to filling in as the coroner.

Outside of her medical practice, Dr. Brown was an active and engaged member in her community and served as a town councillor for 23 years, was a founding member of the recreation board, and sat on the library board for nearly 50 years.

Perhaps most importantly, Dr. Brown was responsible for the construction of the Athabasca Medical Centre, which she sold to the town following her retirement in 1987. A document on the town’s website describes her as “the cornerstone of the medical profession in Athabasca for 40 years” which is a sentiment that Coun. Sara Graling shared.

“She delivered both my father and me … I do think it’s important that Dr. Brown continues to be recognized for her contribution to a small rural community, because it was unbelievably significant,” said Graling.

Cole Brennan,