I never knew Margaret Ballam. The family name was known to me...you can't have lived in Chilliwack for any length of time without having walked past the Ballam Furniture store on Wellington Avenue, which was owned and operated by Margaret and Jack's nephew and family.
The Ballam's have deep connections to Chilliwack. Jack's grandparents, Robert and Caroline Ballam were one of the original first five families to live on Fairfield Island. And although Margaret was not a direct descendant of the Ballam's, she had taken a keen interest in, and was considered a bit of an expert on the history of Fairfield Island and the families that lived and farmed there over the
decades. Her booklet on Fairfield Island’s history can be found in the Chilliwack Archives and there are copies you can borrow in the Fraser Valley Regional Library.
Margaret devoted much of her time helping the community. Shortly after arriving in Chilliwack, she volunteered at Chilliwack Community Services, becoming the assistant coordinator in 1969 and director of the Christmas Sharing Centre for many years. She also was the society's bookkeeper in the 70's.
In later years, Margaret volunteered at the museum and the Valleyhaven Care Home. She cared deeply about the community and the people who lived in it. She was a regular contributor of articles in the Chilliwack Progress, where her focus was on highlighting members of the community.
In 1984, she was recognized on the Chilliwack Community Services Roll as one of sixteen people "who have made outstanding contributions to the society".
In October 2018, Margaret contacted our then President of Heritage Chilliwack, Laura Reid. She was adamant they meet in person within a few days of their conversation. They sat down for coffee in the Royal Hotel and Margaret discussed the historical importance of Chilliwack’s Five Corners and her desire to have some sort of physical “marker” at Five Corners that could tell the story of Chilliwack’s early days.
Sadly, Margaret passed away several weeks after her meeting with Laura. She had left an indelible mark on Laura, who feels fortunate to have known her. I am sure Margaret Ballam would approve of the new “5” Art installation at Five Corners that includes some history of this important intersection in downtown Chilliwack.
Knowing what I now know about Margaret Ballam makes me regret I didn't get the opportunity to know her. She could teach us all a little about learning and valuing the history of the community you live in, as well as giving back to it.
So, it pleases me to know that our society is working toward honouring Margaret's legacy by creating a scholarship in her name. I think she'd like that too!