The Cheriton Family’s Century in the Highlands

In September 2022 a memorial service was held at Highlands United Church for William Ross Cheriton, who passed away at age 101 in January 2022.  The passing of their father inspired his children to collaborate on a short article about the family’s happy connections to the Highlands.  The family lived for a number of years in the Mackenzie Residence at 6010 – 111 avenue.  A history of the Mackenzie Residence can be found in the HHS Edmonton Historical Walking Tour booklet.

We thank the Cheriton family for sharing their memories with our Highlands Historical Society members.

Sketch of Mackenzie Residence

The Cheriton Family’s Century in the Highlands
Written in 2022 by David Cheriton with contributions from siblings Glenn, Kyle and Lorna

The saga of the Smiths and Cheritons in the Highlands community of Edmonton, began with
young Kenneth Smith moving to Edmonton from England just before World War I. After serving
in the Canadian army as a medic in France, he brought his English sweetheart, Irene Micklem,
to Edmonton. He earned a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Alberta, taught school in
various parts of Alberta, then became a teacher at Edmonton’s Parkdale school. The Smiths
purchased a house in 1926 on 72nd Street near 114th Avenue. Unlike some neighbouring
houses, it was not built on former swampland, so they were spared the spring flooding.

The couple had three children, Kenneth, Muriel and Eric. The children attended Highlands
Junior High School in the 1930s. The Smiths had a strong presence at Highlands United
Church, where Irene taught Sunday school and Muriel sang in the choir. Kenneth excelled in
Electrical Engineering at the University of Alberta. Muriel, the second woman to graduate (in
1946) from engineering at the University of Alberta, moved to Toronto to work for Canadian
General Electric (CGE) where she met and married Ross Cheriton. Eric stayed in Edmonton
and worked for Woodward’s Department Store, managing the camera department.

After Ross and Muriel lived in Saskatoon and Vancouver, in 1956 they moved back to
Edmonton and into the Highlands with their four (soon to be five) young children. They
purchased former Mayor Kenneth W. MacKenzie’s house at 6010 111th Avenue. Their children
attended Mount Royal Elementary School and Highlands United Church, where Ross taught a
Sunday school class and Irene (now Granny Smith) taught Grade 6 boys. The kids skated at the
Highlands Community Hall rink, played in the Highlands Park playground, and swam in the
Borden Park pool. Moving on to Highlands Junior High School and Eastglen Composite High
School, they were taught by Ms. Marion Gimby, who had been one of Muriel’s teachers.

With Ross’s office on Edmonton’s southside and children attending the University of Alberta, the
family moved from the Highlands to Belgravia to be closer to their centre of activities.

The Cheritons often visited Granny and Grandpa Smith at their house on 72nd Street. Glenn
and Lorna once made nitroglycerin in their chemistry lab in the basement and exploded it on
Grannie’s sidewalk. After Grandpa and Granny passed away, their house was expropriated and
demolished to make way for the new Capilano Freeway (now Wayne Gretzky Drive). But
Granny Smith’s kitchen counter is in Fort Edmonton, preserving a small part of the history of
early Edmonton. Irene Smith is also remembered with a stained glass window at Highlands
United Church for her long history of teaching Sunday school and other contributions to the
church community.

In the 1970s and 80s, the Cheriton children moved away to eastern Canada, the USA and
Japan, with two remaining in Alberta. Nevertheless, the Highlands remains dear to their hearts
for its wonderful schools, the close neighbourhood full of other children, and the adventures
exploring and tobogganing the North Saskatchewan riverbank.

Ross and Muriel established the Ross & Muriel Cheriton Distinguished Visitor Lecture at the
University of Alberta and the University of Saskatchewan Engineering Cheriton Lecture Fund.
In 1990, the City of Edmonton named Cheriton Crescent in southwest Edmonton in recognition
of Muriel’s pioneering role as an early woman engineering graduate and active Edmonton
community citizen.

At age 101 and a half, Ross passed away January 19, 2022 leaving 6 children, 18 grandchildren
and many great-grandchildren, a Saskatchewan farm boy who became an engineer, company
founder, forensic investigator as well as husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather,.
On September 4 at 1pm, the extended family will gather at Highlands United Church for his
memorial, the place he requested for this occasion. His children do not now live in the Highlands
but will forever be from the Highlands. With Ross’s memorial, they close a chapter on the
Highlands yet treasure the memories.

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