Helen Ball and daughter, Diana Walker


Mary Readman presents CCNA Silver Quill awards for 25 years of service or longer in the weekly newspaper business to Helen Ball (Lee Ann Walker accepting on her grandmother's behalf) and Diana Walker on September 17, 2006.

In 1969 Diana Walker and her mother, Helen Ball, purchased the Oyen Echo and have operated it since. I’m not sure which of these ladies I should talk about first, as both have been life-long contributors to their community.

Helen Ball was born to English immigrants, November 14, 1924 at Oyen. Her mother had been a school teacher and fostered a love of literature in Helen at an early age. Her father and brother were musicians, so Helen grew up in a musical atmosphere. She completed her High School in Oyen and on December 18, 1944 was married to Jim Ball. Among her community endeavors she held various executive positions with the Oyen Home & School, Oyen Flying Club, East Central Riding & Roping Association, Kinette Club, Legion Auxiliary, United Church, Big Country Tourist Association, and the Oyen Public School.

Helen and Diana purchased the Oyen Echo from Bunny and Dave Snideman in 1969. They continued to operate the advertising circular until 1974 when they sold to Holmes Publishing of Medicine Hat. They hired on as co-editors beginning a weekly newspaper on April Fool’s Day of that year. Since then, the circulation and staff have grown. Coincidentally, in the 1980s, Helen found out that her father and her uncle had been Printer’s Devils in England before coming to Canada.

Helen accompanied Jim and his band to hundreds of dances that he played for during the years, while also keeping the books for his farming and construction business. She received the honor of being named Citizen of the Year by the Oyen Lions Club in 1985. She is still active in the community —- a mother of three and grandmother of nine who goes to work every day at the Oyen Echo.

Diana (Ball) Walker was born December 21, 1947 at Oyen and is the youngest daughter of Jim and Helen Ball. She received her schooling in Oyen and went on to the University of Calgary. From a young age she enjoyed meetings, and would play games with her little friends organizing them into a “club” and charging a few cents' “dues” for their treasury. In fact, she came up with all kinds of diversions, being the ring leader of some less desirable endeavors, as well! She was active in her school years, sitting on the Students Union and other groups. She wanted to pursue many avenues such as hair stylist, taxidermist and teacher. The University in Calgary told her she had a high interest in everything and a specific interest in nothing — good grounding for the newspaper business.

Her recreation time was spent riding horses, halter breaking colts and chasing cows. In winter she loved figure skating. With her marriage to Fred Walker on October 22, 1966 she found a kindred spirit with as great a love of horses. Their first years together were spent at One Four, near Manyberries where Fred worked at the Experimental Station. In 1969 they moved back to Oyen to help Diana’s dad with the cattle and horses and this was the year that she became editor of The Oyen Echo.

Following her mother’s lead and love of music, Diana studied music, specifically piano and joined her dad in the band. She also devoted her talents to many clubs and organizations. She has served on the executive of the Oyen & District Chamber of Commerce for many years, the Meals on Wheels program, moderated political forums, became a life member of the Big Country Agricultural Society, Fair Convener, booking clerk for the Crossroads Centre, active in 4-H, was assistant leader of the Bindloss Multi-Club before organizing and leading the Thundering Hooves, member and founding president of the Oyen Lioness Club, member of Communities in Bloom, representative on the Big Country Recycling Council, serves on the Alberta Weekly Newspapers Associations’ Education and Scholarship Committee, and this evening was installed as a Director of the AWNA.

Diana and Fred have five children, some of whom are here tonight to see her accept this award, and Lee Ann will accept for her grandmother. They also have six grandchildren and over the years opened their home to six foster children. Diana is supported whole-heartedly in all her endeavors by her husband and is devoted to her family, her friends, colleagues and community.

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