Memorable Manitobans: Janet Isabelle Ketchen (1915-2005)
Born at Swan River on 16 November 1915 to Emma Danard and Charles Smith, she was raised on a farm west of Swan River, where she and her siblings were kept busy helping their parents run a small dairy operation that provided products to the town. In adulthood, she often entertained her friends and family with stories about her adventures as a child on the farm.
In 1932, during the Great Depression and following the opening of the Hudson Bay Mining & Smelting (HBM&S) operation in 1928, the family migrated to Flin Flon to seek job opportunities. There she found work as a housekeeper and child minder for the Schieder family, who owned a men’s clothing store. A bit later, she went to Toronto, Ontario to live with an aunt; there she studied piano, attended high school, and obtained a Diploma in Practical Nursing. This led to employment as a cook at the Women’s Christian Temperance Union’s Alexandra Hall, a hostel for young women at St. Catharines, Ontario. Upon her return to Flin Flon, she worked as a cook, housekeeper, and private nurse.
On 5 November 1938, she married Maynard Alexander “Bus” Ketchen (1915-1960), in Flin Flon. After her husband joined the Royal Canadian Navy to serve in the Second World War, she went to work for HBM&S in the mill as a grease monkey until former employees who had gone to war returned. She then found employment as a bookkeeper with the T. Eaton Company outlet in Flin Flon, and eventually moved on to the accounting department of Midwest Diamond Drilling.
She and her husband became avid curlers and were among the first members of the Willowvale Curling Club. She led her rink from Willowvale to win the 1959-1960 Provincial Curling Championship, a feat the team repeated in 1962. In 1963, the first year of the Western Canada Women’s Curling Championship, her rink lost out in the final game and finished second. Subsequently, both she individually and her provincial championship team were inducted into the Manitoba Curling Hall of Fame. The Willowvale Curling Club, in recognition of her accomplishments, later awarded her the honour of a life membership, and she was appointed Chairperson Emeritus of the Club. A bronze plaque commemorating her accomplishments is on display at the Club.
Following the death of her husband, she enrolled at the Manitoba Technical Institute’s commercial accounting course in Winnipeg. Upon completing the course, she was offered a position as a commercial teacher at Hapnot Collegiate. For the next ten years, she attended summer school in Winnipeg to complete the requirements for a permanent teaching certificate. By then she was head of the Commercial Department at Hapnot. She retired from teaching in 1982.
In retirement, she served on the Flin Flon School Board and unsuccessfully ran for the position of Mayor of the town. However, she continued her active involvement in the community as an advocate for improved services for seniors, as well as personally assisting seniors with their tax returns, pensions, and so on. In addition, she quietly pursued many other philanthropic activities.
She died at Flin Flon on 19 March 2005 and was buried in the Ross Lake Cemetery.
Marriage registration [Janet Isabelle Smith, Maynard Alexander Ketchen], Manitoba Vital Statistics.
Obituary, Flin Flon Reminder, 29 March 2005.
Maynard A. “Bus” Ketchen, BillionGraves.
This page was prepared by Lois Braun.
Page revised: 25 January 2022