People and Short Histories


Since 2019 the Parish of Christ Church History and Archives Committee has been undertaking short histories of its various ministries, parishioners and activities. We would like to share some of the incredible contributions of its past members through their faith and work.  

RUTH GORMAN (1914-2002) O.C.,B.A., L.L.B., D. Phil (Hon.)
Isaiah 1:17 “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.”
A member of the parish of Christ Church, Ruth was a Canadian crusader for social justice. She became the legal advisor to the Calgary Local Council of Women, and later, for twenty-five years, the Indian Association of Alberta. She fought the landmark Hobbema case (which defeated federal attempts to depopulate the reserve), but most important, in 1965, she obtained the vote for the First Nations of Canada. She was equally passionate about the status of women and ensured that Alberta women enjoyed strong dower rights. She was also passionate about the rights of the disabled and co founded the Rehabilitation Society of Calgary. Her daughter Linda Gorman is a member of the parish.

1 Corinthians 3:10 “According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. “
A dedicated philanthropist, Freddie Lowe believed that “money itself is nothing - what counts is making it and what you can do for your country after you’ve made it”. Without the generous donation of land in 1912 and financial support from flamboyant entrepreneur Freddie Lowes there would not be a Christ Church in Elbow Park. Frederick Charles Wilson, “Freddie” Lowes came to Calgary from Ontario in 1902, as the North West Territories representative for the Canada Life Assurance Company, established a real estate company. After 1906, he was so successful that within five years, he was described as the richest man in Calgary. Elbow Park, Roxboro, Rideau and Windsor Park were his developments. In the great bust of 1916, he lost everything, including his health, which deteriorated over the next decades until his passing in 1950. One of the bells in the tower was donated in memory of his wife, Florence Adele Lowes, who always maintained a connection to Christ Church.

1 Peter 4:10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.

Born in Tavistock Ontario, Helen spent time in Columbia as a child, went to Queen’s, graduated with a BSc (Honours) and then on to the University of Toronto for her Masters, working briefly for the Banting Institute. While working student summers at Banff, she met Jim Mackie, and after their marriage and the move to Alberta, she followed her real passion - the arts. Studying for her BFA at the University of Calgary, she came to specialize in print making, in which she was recognized as a Canadian master. Later at the Banff Centre, of which she and Jim were always strong supporters, she attracted the attention of the world’s outstanding print makers. She has exhibited at and is represented in some of the world’s and Canada’s great collections. Both she and Jim were long time supporters of Christ Church.

WILLIAM PAUL MAJOR (1881 – unknown)
1 Corinthians 3:10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it.

Responsible for general Gothic design of the church tower and the brick form, his architectural wisdom made Christ Church unique. Major was born in Somerset England, apprenticed as an architect at 18, and later worked in Bristol where he was admitted to the Royal Institute of British architects. He was attracted to the new booming Alberta in 1910, arriving in Calgary that year, with his wife Marion Jesse Walton. He joined the Alberta Association of Architects Jan 30 1911, immediately became its President and began to practise. Along with his partner architects, he was responsible for services with the Dominion Irrigation district as well as the Eastern Irrigation District. Major is credited with shaping much of early Calgary through his work on the Ogden Hotel, St. John’s Church, the Empire Hotel, and Banff’s government house. He was active in cricket and football as well as Alpine Club and Christ Church. He designed a number of homes in Elbow Park and lived there until he and Marion left the City in 1923. His lasting contribution to Christ Church will always be the persistence of his design vision, which was offered the parish well before the first foundations were laid.

2 Corinthians 9:7 “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
Gerald, born in Morris, Manitoba, grew up in Yorkton, Saskatchewan. He attended the University of Saskatchewan College of Law, moved to Calgary in 1960 and was called to the Alberta Bar in 1961. He practiced law actively for 55 years, and was awarded his QC in 1988 and the Law Society of Alberta and Canadian Bar Association's Award for Distinguished Service to the Community Award in 2001. He firmly believed that giving back to the community was a responsibility of citizenship, and through his life he held leadership roles in numerous organizations, including CareWest and the CareWest Foundation, the Calgary Health Trust, the Calgary Philharmonic, Heritage Park, and the Glenbow Museum. He was also the Alberta representative on the Canadiana Fund, which assists in the collection of important Canadian artifacts for Canada's Official Residences in Ottawa and Quebec City. His passion was Canada’s arts and culture and devoted his life to ensure that it not only survived, but also flourished.

JOHN (WELLBANK) SEARCHFIELD BA (OXFORD) 1951, ARCM 1952, LRAM 1953, MA (Oxford) 1966 (1930-2013)
Psalm 95:1 “Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.”
John was passionate about music and shared that gift with Christ Church as director of music after his appointment as organist/choirmaster in 1969. His legacy of joy is still felt in the parish, in Calgary and in Canada. Professor of music at the University of Calgary for 26 years, and a CBC music broadcaster and producer, he was also the founding director of the Festival Chorus of Calgary, the harpsichordist with the Calgary Baroque Ensemble and conductor of the CBC Calgary String Orchestra. He shared his considerable musical gifts not only with Canada, but also with Germany, Sweden, Spain, New Zealand and Australia.

ARTHUR RYAN SMITH, O.C., A.O.E., D.F.C. (1919-2008)
Luke 14:13-14 “But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”
A war hero, entrepreneur, Alderman, MLA, and MP a.k.a. Mr. Calgary was a great Albertan and Canadian, whose wisdom was sought by many. Art believed in public service and in 1981 established the Calgary Economic Development Authority. In his later years, he focused on his real passion - ending homelessness, not only in Calgary but in Canada. To that end, Art established the Calgary Homeless Foundation in 1998. He championed a ten-year plan to end homelessness and nearly achieved that goal by the end of his life.

JOHN SOUTHAM (1909 – 1954)
Isaiah 52:7 How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who rings good new of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”

The grandson of William Southam, the great Canadian newspaper publisher, John was one of the few members of the family to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps. A graduate of Upper Canada College, and Trinity College Port Hope, he started with the Ottawa Citizen, and came to Calgary in 1932 to work at the Calgary Herald. By 1937 he was made business manager, and after the war Vice President and publisher. He was a man of the greatest integrity and made major contributions to Calgary’s sports. He formed the Calgary Ski Club in 1935, was president of the Calgary Fish and Game Association in 1939 and again in 1942. In the Second World War, he joined Royal Canadian Artillery as a lieutenant, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel by the end of the war. He was a regular at Christ Church, which mourned his early death.

2 Corinthians 9:7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion,
for God loves a cheerful giver.

Raised in Edmonton, he attended the University of Alberta. He worked for The Northern Alberta Railway and Hudson Bay Oil and Gas in their early years, eventually becoming President of Bow Valley Industries. Bill’s career was marked by service. He used his connections, intelligence and industry to benefit his community. He was a board member of the Alberta Children's Hospital Foundation, and president of the Calgary Family Services Bureau, and the Calgary Chapter of the Financial Executives. He was equally active in the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, the Calgary Chapter of Junior Achievement, the Alberta Historical Society, the Calgary Parks Foundation, the Ranchmen’s Club, the Glencoe Club and the Calgary Golf and Country Club. He served Christ Church with equal vigour and there served as People's Warden, and as a member of the building renovation and organ committee. Even in their retirement, Bill and June believed in giving back and joined CESO (the Canadian Executive Services Organization ) and contributed their knowledge where it would do good.

John 15:13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

Born in Eton, England the son of a master of Eton College, he started cattle ranching in Alberta in 1885 very much in the tradition of immigrants of British origin, of polo playing and coyote hunting. In 1908 with the end of the open range, he sold his eight hundred acre ranch and settled in Elbow Park, as one of its first and more prominent residents. There he made his livelihood in real estate with Cousins and Company. However his real and life long passion in the Imperial tradition was the military, most of which was spent with the 15th Light Horse Regiment, and the 82nd Battalion, of which he was second in command during WWI. He and his wife, Annie, who he had wed on a visit to England in 1887, were extraordinarily active in their community. He was a passionate member of Calgary Horticultural Society (which he founded), the Calgary Golf and Country Club, the Ranchman’s Club, and a devoted parishioner of Christ Church. Annie, one of the driving forces in the establishment of Christ Church, was active in the Imperial Daughters of the Empire as well as the Southern Alberta Pioneers and Old Timer’s Association. When Arthur Wolley-Dod died in 1936, he was accorded one of the great military funerals of the day at Christ Church officiated by Bishop Sherman. Annie died Nov. 11, 1945.