By Theodora MacLeod - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on December 20, 2023.
Mary Oordt was part of the Galt Museum organization for more than 22 years. A founding member of the Friends Society of the Sir Alexander Galt Museum & Archives, she played an active role in the Lethbridge community until her passing nearly a year ago on Dec. 29.
Now thanks to her colleagues at the Friends Society, her legacy as a teacher, community member, and lifelong learner will live on as she is memorialized with a namesake educational bursary and board room.
Though Oordt was not born in Lethbridge, rather Lynden, Washington, the city was home to Mary and husband, Martin for more than 40 years, with Mary surviving her husband an additional 11 years following his death in 2011. High school sweethearts, they moved here from the United States in 1967 and were both deeply involved in education, working in the field.
Holding a master’s degree in sociology, Oordt was an active member of the community filling roles with the Canadian Mental Health Association, the Empress Theatre, and the Lethbridge Symphony, in addition to her involvement with the Galt Museum and Archives.
Together, Mary and Martin published Lethbridge Living magazine.
The bursary created in honour of Oordt has been established jointly by the Friends of the Galt and the Galt Museum & Archives. With an initial $10,000 pledge from the Friends Society, the funds will be used to bring elementary students to the museum and Fort Whoop-up to participate in educational programing.
With five bursaries of $200 each available annually, the endowment will cover transportation and programing costs with the objective of fostering educational opportunities for young students.
“The Galt wanted to do something that would recognize her for her many years of support of the Galt,” says President of the Friends of the Galt society, Glenn Coulter.
“Mary was a very vivacious, positive lady. Strongly supportive of educational programsâ€¦ this bursary with the Galt and the Friends of the Galt will extend her interest in educational programs in support of youth and their education.”
The museum currently offers programs for students of all grade levels with a variety of focuses such as the inner workings of the Archives, Blackfoot People’s voices, Archeology of Southwestern Alberta, and Christmases in the past.
Both the Galt Museum and its Friends Society are dedicated to ongoing fundraising to ensure the bursary’s future and plan to open applications for the fund in 2024. They are currently in the process to developing criteria for acceptance.
“Mary was a wonderful person, she always had a smile on her face, she was always very positive,” says Coulter. “She was always there to support the Galt and the friends of the Galt.”
Mary Oordt will undoubtably continue to be missed dearly by those who loved her. Thanks to the Galt Museum and its Friends Society, her legacy of dedication, community involvement, and commitment to education will live on for generations to come.