Family Histories
of the Swan River Valley
Manitoba, Canada
Pioneer Centennial
History Book
100 Years in the
Swan River Valley
1898 - 1998

Frank and Kay Barrett

Alice Kathleen Maher was born in Grandview, MB in 1906. At an early age, she and her family moved to Russell, MB where Kay’s father Jerry owned the hotel. She attended the U of M on a scholarship for one year and then worked for a bank in Melita, MB. There, she met her future husband, Frank.

Francis (Frank) Barrett was born in Carberry, MB in 1894, the only son of Judge Gregory Barrett. Frank was wounded in the first world war while serving with the Lord Strathcona Horse Cavalry Brigade. Returning to Canada he obtained his law degree. He and Kay were married and had three girls - Margaret (Lueger), Lois (Midwinter), and Joanne (McGrath). Lois died of cancer in 1988. Losing his mother to pneumonia at age six made him determined to have a close relationship with his daughter.

Members of the family had visited the Swan River Valley and returned to Melita extolling its beauty. A keen outdoorsman, Frank’s interest was piqued. Hearing that “Little Mac’s” law practice was for sale, he took a trip north to see the area. Kay and Frank and their three girls arrived in Swan River on December 10, 1939. Renting for awhile, Kay was determined to buy Miss Latimer’s house on what is now River Park Drive. A deal was made and Kay would live there almost sixty years until her move to the Swan Valley Lodge this past October. Frank continued to practise law in Swan River until his death from cancer in 1945. His love for the valley never faltered as he enjoyed fishing and duck hunting in the surrounding areas. Many Sundays were spent in drives in the country with his family, keeping an eye out for prairie chicken and partridge, readying for the Fall hunting season. Frank was an ardent curler and golfer and a keen competitor in both.

After her husband’s death, Kay went to work as a legal secretary, first for Tom Neelands and later for Jack Walker. Her mother, Mary Edna Maher, came to live with her at that time. Edna later moved to Vancouver with her younger daughter Beryle. After high school, the girls moved to Winnipeg to take courses but always regarded Swan River as their home town. Marg and Joanne now reside in Ontario.

Kay’s love of music was apparent at an early age. She played for the silent movies at age eleven in Russell’s movie theatre. In high school there, she and three others formed an all-girl orchestra, touring the surrounding countryside playing for dances. Kay would play in many other orchestras in her lifetime. She helped students prepare for festivals and accompanied choirs and soloists throughout the valley.

In later life, she joined the Legion and also played for the Silver Strings.

The town of Swan River honoured Kay for her service with her music and the Rotary Club made her an honoray member. Service to golf and curling clubs was recognized with lifetime memberships. Being a pianist for the Golden Agers’ Choir for many years, Kay was especially proud of their performances on T.V. and awards won at that time. Retired from public life, she plays the Lodge’s piano and still beats out a mean tune.

Submitted by: Marg Lueger


Manitoba's Swan River Valley is an area rich in history. These family histories were a part of the 1998 Pioneer Centennial History Book project. If you would like the history of your area available online, have your historic group contact the Key Rock Group for information on electronic publication. We offer publication free of charge and also provide the option for making your history book available on CD.