Bessie Stevens will be lacing up her bowling shoes in a couple of weeks as she heads to the 2022 Canada 55 Plus Games in Kamloops, BC, from Aug. 23 – 26. Bessie has a long history of involvement with 55 Plus games at both the provincial and national levels, having belonged to the Alberta 55 plus Association since 1998. She was made a lifetime member of the Alberta Association last year.
Bessie has lived in the local area since moving to Swan Hills in 1972. She became the Post Mistress in Swan Hills, holding that position until her retirement in 1993. Bessie and her husband John moved to Fort Assiniboine after he retired in 1986. They stayed in the Fort until moving to Barrhead three years ago. Bessie still remains an active member of the Swan Hills and Fort Assiniboine communities, regularly visiting to spend time with friends, play bingo, and participate in local crib tournaments when she’s available. Stevens still belongs to the Swan Hills Oil Wives Club
Bessie started competing in the games in 2012 by entering the women’s golf event in the Canada 55 Plus Games, held in Cape Breton, NS. She didn’t come away with a medal that year but reports having had a great time out east with her husband, John. One of the highlights of their trip was seeing Rita McNeil before the singer passed away in 2013.
Bessie won a bronze medal in bowling at the 2013 Alberta 55 Plus Winter Games in Calgary, followed by a gold medal for bowling in the 2014 Canada 55 Plus Games in Strathcona County in the 75+ category.
In 2018, Stevens earned a bronze medal in golf at the Canada 55 Plus Games in Saint John, NB. She competed again in 2019 in both the Alberta 55 Plus Winter (bowling in Cold Lake) and Summer (golf in Medicine Hat) Games.
Bessie’s athletic competition career was put on hold in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic, but she is making up for lost time in 2022 with a silver medal in bowling at the Alberta 55 Plus Winter Games (Edmonton) in April and a gold medal for golf in the Summer Games (Peace River) in June.
Stevens has an outlook on the many competitions in which she has taken part, and the multiple medals she has won that can only be described as inspirational, saying, “You dream, you believe, you achieve, and you never give up.”
Bessie’s family has been very supportive of her athletic activities. Her granddaughter even set up a successful GoFundMe campaign to help offset Stevens’ transportation and related expenses when she competed in New Brunswick in 2018.
Having qualified for both golf and bowling, Bessie had to decide which of the two events she would compete in at the Kamloops games because the events will take place during the same time slot. Ultimately, she chose to compete with her bowling team, explaining, “When you’re on a team, you go with your team. You don’t let your team down.”
We will be cheering on Bessie and her team from Swan Hills when they lace up their bowling shoes later this month in Kamloops for the Canada 55 Plus Games.
Dean LaBerge, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grizzly Gazette