Although most known for their involvement with local initiatives such as the build of the original lighthouse, ownership of the marina, Lakewood Golf Course and the dinner cruise boat known as the Miss Mermaid – the last 59 years of Al and Miriam Carruthers marriage have flown by in a flourish of kind, compassionate and courageous accomplishments outside of the business world as well.
Al Carruthers, born 1937 in Saskatchewan, moved to the Bentley area with his family at the age of five.
“My uncle came first, he had heard of a homesteading plan where you get the property from the government, you have to develop it and if you do that it’s yours,” recalled Carruthers of how his family came to be in the area. “So that’s what we did, we homesteaded in Bentley.”
Carruthers and his five siblings were raised primarily by their mother, who would later own the bakery in Bentley, as well as the Greyhound Bus Depot.
“She had the best cinnamon buns in Central Alberta. The bus would pull in and the driver would tell people – if you want a good cinnamon bun head on in. Those buses would wipe her stock out nearly every day,” said Carruthers, adding his mother worked hard to support her six children and ensure they received a good education. “It was difficult at times but we made it, we all made it threw school.”
Following graduation he had begun an apprenticeship as a mechanic at a shop in Bentley when his life would change forever.
“Al’s friend was going with my friend and his friend asked me one day if I would be interested in meeting this friend of his,” recalls Miriam on how they met.
The pair tell the tale of how Al was remarkably late for their date to see a Martin Luther film as he had been driving to the theatre in Edmonton from Bentley and it was dark. Miriam adds that he ‘hung around’ for nearly a week after that and Al adds jokingly that Miriam wanted to get married that night. Alas the duo would date for a year a half before being married in November and later having three children – Tim, Perry and Darcy.
They soon moved to Edmonton where Miriam was born and raised. Al worked for some time continuing his apprenticeship as a mechanic before eventually switching to construction which he would continue working in for the extent of their marriage.
My dad used to do painting, he painted for a construction company,” explained Miriam. “That was later in his life, he did many other things before that, he even tried farming for a bit.”
Al added, “With her dad in construction and painting, I slowly went that direction then eventually he painted some jobs for me.”
In 1969 the Carruthers founded their construction company, Top Notch Investments in Red Deer.
“We were still in Edmonton at the time and had the chance to bid on a piece of property in Red Deer for apartments and town houses – we bid on it and we got it,” recalls Al. “So I used to come down on Monday morning and then go home Wednesday evening – stay over night, then come back Thursday and Friday – it was terrible.
“So I asked Miriam if she would move to Red Deer and I said when I was finished the job we would move back to Edmonton. We moved December the 1st, 1969. Then we went home for Christmas and on the drive back we said we would never move back to Edmonton.”
Miriam added they quite enjoyed Red Deer and had made many friends there. The pair lived in Red Deer for five years before heading to Blackfalds where they would live for many years on a horse ranch.
During their time living in Edmonton, the Carruthers had come across a newspaper ad looking for foster parents. The pair agreed something with the ad resonated with both of them, but they were unsure of how it would affect their three sons.
“If anything it affected them for the good. They would always become friends or buddies with the other kids,” said Al on the relationship his three sons would come to have with their foster children over the years. “Generally we’d sit down for dinner and there would be 14 of us – we would have eight or nine foster children at any given time.”
“We said it was a boys ranch, but pretty soon the government started sending us girls,” they recalled. “We raised Arab horses. Those horses were the best therapy for the girls you could ever imagine.”
The Carruthers officially adopted one of their foster children, Amelia ‘Amy’ Nova-Lee, but added many of their foster children have become ‘one their own children’ to this date.
“Their spouses are our son in laws, their children are our grandchildren – that’s just how it works in our family,” said Miriam.
They would later sell the acreage in Blackfalds following their last foster child turning 18 and moved to the RV park near Lakewood Golf Course where they still happily remain.
The Carruthers have also been heavily involved with mission work in Juarez, Mexico – a city of three million, which was ravaged by the cartel over the last few years. Their organization, Operation Amigo Building Society has been responsible for providing hundreds of working toilets to the people of Juarez, three schools that sponsor nearly 400 students pre kindergarten to grade 12, along with a training centre for carpentry, drafting, automotive and beautician trades; as well a number of churches, homes and orphanages.