Volunteer Millie Seitz immortalized in public art

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Statue dedicated to former Citizen of the Year, volunteers in general

St. Albert may have lost ardent volunteer Millie Seitz nearly three years ago, but the city can now look upon her smiling face once more and forever. A statue in her honour was unveiled late Thursday morning, thanks to a team of her friends and other volunteers on the St. Albert 150th Anniversary Celebration Committee.

“We just know how thrilled our mom would have been with it,” said Caroline Seitz. “She would have been humbled and honoured and totally thrilled.”

The Millie Seitz Volunteer Appreciation Sculpture can be found in the ACT/UCT Celebration Garden along the river valley across from St. Albert Place. The bronze piece by Beaumont-based sculptor Marjorie Ann Davies shows a strident Seitz, the now permanent symbol of the city’s vigorous spirit of volunteerism.

Carol Watamaniuk, project leader and vice-chair of the Celebration Committee, elaborated on the meaning of the new addition to St. Albert’s growing collection of Art in Public Places.

“In St. Albert’s 150th Anniversary Celebration commemorative book, we talked about how the spirit of St. Albert is magnified many-fold by our volunteers … in all the community for all different things. How we magnify the spirit of St. Albert is through the generosity of spirit of our volunteers, and their willingness to step up to the plate and get the job done.”

“Millie was chosen to represent the face of volunteerism in our city not only because she gave of her time to many, many causes in the community, but because of the way she did it. She did it with such humility and grace. No task was too small … and no challenge was too great.”

She went on to describe Seitz’s cheery but indomitable zest for helping others and numerous community organizations along the way. The former teacher was involved with the Community Information and Volunteer Centre, the MusĂ©e HĂ©ritage Museum, the then-called Provincial Museum of Alberta, the Rotary Music Festival, the Northern Alberta International Children’s Festival, and other festivals.

She once hosted an event to promote hostel adventures for the retired and semi-retired in Kananaskis country. She was an elder at the Braeside Presbyterian Church where she also taught Sunday school. Her résumé contained many other notable achievements and efforts.

She promoted the Art in Public Places program and the St. Albert Senior Citizens’ Club. She was also a member of the local steering committee for the International Year of Older Persons back in 1999. It was on that committee that the Celebration Garden itself took shape. Seitz, in her quiet but determined way, took the bull by the horns to fundraise hundreds of thousands of dollars for that effort.

Today, the gorgeous space next to the Chateau Mission Court features several flowerbeds, the Butterfly Sails fountain, several decorative sculpture art benches and now Seitz’s statue. Former city manager Bill Holtby once called the site “a jewel in the St. Albert crown.”

Seitz was also awarded the Volunteer Citizen of the Year that same year, then the St. Albert Baha’i Women of Distinction honour in 2000, and the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Commemorative Medal in 2002. That was also the year when she received the St. Albert Business Celebrates Culture Award. In 2005, she received the Alberta Centennial Medal.

She was also a member of the St. Albert Historical Society and the St. Albert Trekkers Volkssport Club. The group brought a sizeable assembly of current members to the ceremony to celebrate Seitz’s life by conducting a historical tour of heritage buildings, the same one that Seitz organized many years ago.

She was so busy with one thing or another that her close friend Bob Morgan dubbed her ‘Miss Volunteer.’ Watamaniuk preferred to think that Seitz never gave up her job as a teacher.

“She never stopped teaching. I was thinking about how much she taught me in the time that I knew her.”

Mayor Nolan Crouse said that Seitz was indeed a role model for many and that it was necessary to preserve her likeness as a pertinent reminder to all, calling it “the important legacy that Millie left with us.”

“Millie was a symbol of older persons, she was a symbol of volunteerism, she was a symbol of citizen … she was a symbol of history because of what she provided leadership for,” he stated.

The $80,000 project was supported by a federal grant of $25,000 while the remainder was raised by sponsors and donors.

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About Author

Scott Hayes

Scott Hayes joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2008. Scott writes about the arts, entertainment, movies, culture, community groups, and charities. He also writes general news, features, columns and profiles on people.