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MUSSELWHITE – Florence Irene (nee Mathison)

July 27, 1917 – November 4, 2009

Florence Musselwhite, well known in Calgary musical circles, passed away on Wednesday, November 4, 2009 at the age of 92 years.

Born on a farm near Fort Pelly, SK, Florence and her two brothers and five sisters, were brought up in nearby Norquay, where their father was postmaster and ran the general store. An adventurous teen, she once used money earned from a potato patch to pay for a ride in war hero and bush pilot Wop May’s biplane. After graduating from high school, she entered nursing school at the Grey Nuns Hospital in Regina. In her final year, she met a handsome piano tuner and musician named Cal. The two were married in 1940. They came to Calgary in 1942 where Cal was to become Heintzman & Co.’s piano technician. Florence was soon running the music department at the Heintzman store. Decades later, Cal and friend Don Ritchie opened a piano business to market the new Yamaha pianos and Florence asked for a small corner of “MR Music” where she could sell sheet music. The corner grew into Rideau Music, which soon became one of the premier music stores in Western Canada. Florence loved watching young musicians grow, and she had great respect for good music teachers. This came together in 1960 when she became assistant secretary of the Calgary Kiwanis Music Festival. She became Executive Secretary in 1964 and held that post until she retired in 1976. Cal also held a variety of positions with the Festival, including President and its officials said: “The Musselwhites were recognized as being largely responsible for the Festival’s success.” Florence was one of the founding members of the Alberta Music Festival Association and served on the board of the Canadian Federation of Music Festivals as well as being a local representative of the Royal Conservatory of Music. Her contributions were recognized by the federal government in 1977, when she was awarded The Queen’s Silver Jubilee Medal. Florence and Cal were founding members of the Calgary Choral Society and also sang in the Philharmonic Chorus. For many years Florence sang in The Choral Belles. She was also a contributor to the Canadian Encyclopaedia of Music. She took care that her love of music was instilled in her three sons and two daughters, all of whom have been involved in music in some way.

Florence is survived by her children, Bill (Sherry) of Vernon, BC, Barbara Feldman (Peter) of Ottawa, ON, John (Cherie) of Calgary, Leslie (Phil Riopel) of Sherwood Park, AB, and Jamie (Susan Anderson) of Toronto, ON; as well as five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. She is also survived by one sister, Dagmar Elliott (Al), of Vancouver, BC. Florence was predeceased by her beloved husband Cal in 1996.

Funeral Services will be held at Christ Church Elbow Park (3602 – 8th Street S.W.) on Friday, November 20, 2009 at 3:00 p.m. Forward condolences through If friends so desire, memorial donations may be made directly to the Kiwanis Music Festival’s Florence Musselwhite Memorial Fund. Her family would like to thank Dr. Richard Ward for his kind attention to Florence and Cal over many years, as well as the staff at Staywell Manor, Garrison Woods and the staff of Unit 81 of the Foothills Hospital.

In living memory of Florence Musselwhite, a tree will be planted at Fish Creek Provincial Park by McINNIS & HOLLOWAY FUNERAL HOMES, Fish Creek Chapel, 14441 BANNISTER ROAD S.E. Telephone: (403) 256-9575.

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Condolence Messages

  1. Harold and Dolores Thornton :

    We were sorry to hear of Florence’s passing. She was such a vibrant person and so important in the musical life of the city. We were neighbors in the early sixties when we were at 1120 Lansdowne Ave, and our Mom, Mona Thornton was the long time leader of the Choral Belles, as well as the choir of Riverview United Church. We hope the family will be comforted to know how many people Florence and Cal affected during their long lifetimes.

    Best wishes,

    Harold and Dolores

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  2. Florence’s passing for me is like the end of an era. Our families were neighbours and close friends for many years. To Bill, Barbara, John, Leslie and Jamie I am thinking of you during these difficult days. with love, Susan Bain (Harcourt-O’Reilly)

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