Bakken: Velma Margaret
May 29, 1921 – May 19, 2020
Born May 29, 1921, to Robert and Katherine Searl in a sod house on the family farm 10 miles northwest of Loverna, Saskatchewan, Velma grew up with three older brothers, Vinson, Melvin and Alvin, and a younger sister Olive. She attended various schools in the Clarement School District, often riding a horse back and forth even in deep snow and cold. As a teenager, she did housework for various families and cared for her sister as they attended school in Loverna.
On January 22, 1942, Velma married Frank Pratt. They made their home one mile south of Esther where they built a new house in 1951 and raised four boys, Kenneth (1945), Murray (1947), Wayne (1953), and Barry (1956). Throughout their marriage, Frank and Velma were very active in the Esther community and enjoyed spending time with their young grandchildren who lived nearby. They continued to farm until 1977 and had made plans to retire to Oyen. They were in the process of relocating when, sadly, Frank died. Velma sold the farm to Ken and Murray and moved into the new home she and Frank had built in Oyen.
Velma was diagnosed with cancer in 1978, not long after beginning work at the hotel located just across the street from her new home. With surgery and three years of chemotherapy treatments, she became completely cancer free.
In June of 1979, Velma went on a seven-week, 11 country tour of Europe with her long-time friend, Nellie May Gripp. Upon returning, Velma became employed as a cook at the Big Country Hospital in Oyen and continued to work there for the next six years. Velma also shared her large home with several boarders over the years. Regular attendance at Oyen United Church and many other community functions was a significant part of her life. She was always available to her family and friends and eagerly hosted meals and celebrations.
In 1985, Velma met Elmer Bakken, a bachelor from Excel, while discing at the Seniors Rec Center in Oyen. They were married on December 6, 1986 and honeymooned in Australia and New Zealand with Nellie May Gripp and Elsie Mansfield as chaperones. Over the following years, Elmer and Velma remained active in the Oyen community and were privileged to travel extensively with friends and family as well as participate in many Senior Summer Games in discing, floor curling, and ballroom dancing. Elmer embraced his new family and the two of them took the grandchildren on many outings and made many special memories. As the grandchildren migrated to school in Oyen, Grandma’s house became even more of a hub of comings and goings.
Elmer’s failing health prompted a move to a seniors’ complex in Medicine Hat in the fall of 2007. Sadly, he died in March of 2008. Velma remained in their apartment in Medicine Hat, often arranging get-togethers to celebrate birthdays and special holidays with family and friends. She relocated to extended care in Medicine Hat in January of 2017 where she died peacefully on May 19, 2020, 10 days short of her ninety-ninth birthday!
Velma is predeceased by her parents and brothers Milton Searl, Melvin Searl, Vinson Searl, Alvin Searl and sister Olive Sonmor; husbands Frank Pratt and Elmer Bakken; sons Murray and Ken, and grandson Gregory Pratt.
Velma is survived by sons Wayne (Bernice) of Medicine Hat and Barry (Kathy) of Strathmore and daughters-in-law Gisela of Three Hills and Marcia of Medicine Hat; grandchildren Marvin Pratt, Lisa Gramlich, Vera (Chris) Mazurak, Corinna (Don) Montgomery, Lora (Nico) Jol, Leann (Dave) Mercer, Marcy (Lorral) Weisgerber, Kellie Pratt and Tyler Pratt, and step-grandson Corey Harding; great-grandchildren Jordan, Cody, Riley, and Jasmine Gramlich, Michaela and Cayden Mazurak, Sara, Genai, Amanda, Savanna, and Amberlise Montgomery, Haley, Cian, and Ashley Mercer, Brenden, Jillian, and Gavin Weisgerber, Anthony Harding, Amanda Winter, great-great-grandchild Tyson Winter; and numerous nieces and nephews.
On May 23, Velma’s family gathered at Esther Cemetery to celebrate her life and lay her to rest. Officiating clergy was Rev. Helen Reed. A eulogy was given by Delbert Pratt. Pallbearers were Marcy Weisgerber, Lora Jol, Kellie Pratt, Tyler Pratt, Jordan Gramlich, and Jasmine Gramlich.
Memorial contributions may be made to Oyen and District Health Care Foundation.
MacLean’s Funeral Home of Oyen in care of arrangements.