Lydia Pals (1915-1983)

The Pals family lived in Calgary, Alberta in the mid-fifties and later moved to Edmonton, Alberta. Lydia was active in the Edmonton-based Estonian Independence Association and participated in educating Canadians about the Estonian people. She was a concert pianist. Lydia grew up in Narva with her parents Elsa (nee Heinze) and Aleksander Anton and her younger sister, Elsa. She completed her schooling at the Narva Gymnasium and then went on to study music at the Tallinn Conservatory of Music where she worked with Professor Leimer. Her professional concert debut was in Tallinn where she lived with her Uncle Otto and Aunt Ebba with whom she maintained close contact throughout their lives. Her uncle Major General Otto Heinze, was commander of the military Division 1 in Vabadussõda (Estonian War of Independence). She later studied under Walter Gieseking in Wiesbaden, West Germany and continued her concert career subsequent to her marriage in 1938 to Julius Kass. Lydia developed life long friendships from her membership in the sorority "Fidelia" and as a result of her classical education, Lydia was fluent in Estonian, German, Russian and English.

Lydia left Estonia in 1943 with her mother and two small children, Heidi and Vello and fled to Germany. During this time she lived in the DP camp at Aglasterhausen. She came to Canada as a "farm labourer" in the spring of 1949 and settled in Barons, and then Lethbridge, Alberta. It quickly became apparent to the farm owners that she was not suited to the labourer occupation and through their generosity and kindness, alternate work was found so that she could complete her year of service in order to remain in Canada. With the friendship and support of the Enerson family, Lydia began her career as a music teacher, a career that was to extend for thirty-four years. Lydia met Ilmar Pals through the matchmaking efforts of other Estonian expats settled in southern Alberta and they married in 1952 in Medicine Hat. Ilmar was a Land Surveyor with the Department of Highways, Government of Alberta and they moved to Edmonton in 1953 where their daughter Ann was born in 1955.

Lydia was active in the Edmonton Estonian community as an organizer, educator, and cultural ambassador. Events and displays of folk costumes, Estonian art, explanations about Estonians traditions and music, whether at Independence Day celebrations or to the Minister of State for Multiculturalism saw Lydia at the center working to promote her culture and recognition of the illegal occupation of her homeland. Throughout her life, Lydia remained close to her Estonian roots and was considered an authority on Estonian culture and Estonian cultural contributions in Canada. She was actively involved in the Centennial celebration, the Estonian contribution to the Provincial Museum and appeared in a variety of radio and TV programs about Estonian music, art and culture.

Lydia was also very proud to be a Canadian and felt strongly that she needed to give back to the community that helped her and her family get a new start. As a result she was a very active volunteer in the music and cultural life of Edmonton. In addition to teaching music both at her studio at home and at Alberta College, she was a President of the Registered Music Teachers Association Edmonton Branch and of the Women's Musical Club. She pioneered pedagogical methods for teaching music composition to children and her contribution to music education is recognized annually at the Kiwanis Music Festival.

Alberta's Estonian Heritage