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- Wyatt, Wanda Lefurgey
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ca. 2000 photographs
ca. 1200 postcards
ca. 300 negatives
ca. 20 maps
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Wanda Lefurgey Wyatt, philanthropist and patron of the arts and education, was born on 9 May 1895 at 85 Spring Street, Summerside, Prince Edward Island. She was the second child of lawyer James Edward Wyatt (1860-1932) and shipbuilder’s daughter, Cecilia Lefurgey (1864-1937). Her older sister Dorothy (1893-1958) lived with Wanda in the family home and a brother Ivan Edward (1896-1898) died young. Miss Wyatt attended elementary school in the town and then went on to the Edgehill School in Windsor, Nova Scotia. In 1913 she entered McGill University in Montreal and earned a Bachelor of Arts in 1917. Following her graduation, she returned home and then in December joined her sister and ill mother at the Lindlhar Sanitarium in Chicago. While there, she took a history course at the University of Chicago, studied folk dancing and attended lectures and concerts. In the summer of 1919, the family was reunited in Summerside and in December Miss Wyatt became a student of law in her father’s office. She provided assistance to him in his practice over the years, but was unable to advance her studies because of the required nursing care for her mother.
In 1929, her mother’s sister, Beatrice, invited Miss Wyatt to accompany her on a round-the-world cruise. In her later years, she referred to this voyage as the “highlight” of her life. Back in Summerside, her life once again revolved around her immediate family. When her father died in 1932, Miss Wyatt assumed responsibility for the family’s business affairs, which consisted of numerous investments and mortgages. She later looked after the estates of her mother in 1937 and of her sister in 1958.
Over the years, Miss Wyatt took many trips with Dorothy and others, but spent most of her days in Summerside managing her financial affairs and continuing her community and leisure interests. Her membership in the Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire (IODE) spanned 66 years and entailed many years in executive positions at the local and provincial level. She was actively involved in St. Mary’s Anglican Church, the Red Cross Society, and the Summerside Historical Society. Her interest in heritage led her to become a member of the steering committee for the PEI Museum and Heritage Foundation, which was created in 1972. She then served as chairperson (1972) and remained on the board until 1975. In addition to her concern for heritage preservation, she took a leading role in cultural development when she purchased her mother’s childhood home at 205 Prince Street and transformed it into the Lefurgey Cultural Centre. It was officially opened in 1966 as a gathering place for local artists and crafts people. She also was a director of the Summerside Community Concert Association and held a seat on the Board of Governors of Prince of Wales College.
In 1966 Miss Wyatt created the Wyatt Foundation which, in later years, awarded financial support to the College of Piping and Celtic Performing Arts, The University of Prince Edward Island, the Red Cross Society, the IODE, the PEI Humane Society, the Rotary Regional Library, and the Lefurgey Cultural Centre. The Wyatt Centre for the performing arts, erected on the Summerside waterfront in 1996, was a major beneficiary of the Foundation and was named in her honour. The awards extended to Wanda Wyatt included the PEI Museum and Heritage Foundation Award of Honour 1982 and again in 1996, an IODE Life Membership in 1981, the Lescarbot Benefactor Award for outstanding contributions to community cultural activities in 1991, the Summerside Citizen of the Year Award in 1988, and an Honorary Doctor of Laws from the University of Prince Edward Island in 1992.
Miss Wyatt remained in her family home with caregivers’ help until her death at age 102 on 14 January 1998. The house at 85 Spring Street with all its contents, the adjoining Lefurgey property, and the house and property at 75 Spring Street (the home of the MacNaught History Centre and Archives) were donated to the City of Summerside by the Wyatt Foundation in the year 2000. The 1867 Wyatt home has been restored as a museum and reflects the life of Wanda Wyatt and the historic days of Summerside.
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PEI Heritage Foundation papers
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Separate fonds exist for Ned Wyatt, Cecelia Lefurgey Wyatt, and Dorothy Wyatt. The Rosara Brennan fonds (MHCA0012) has many references to the Wyatt family. Rosara and Cecelia were sisters.
Some materials from the Wyatt family were donated by Miss Wyatt to the provincial archives in the late 1970s and may be accessed at the Public Archives and Records Office in Charlottetown under Accessions 3151 and 4486. Deirdre Kessler documented the life of Wanda Wyatt in the book “A Century on Spring Street” published in 1999.
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