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Where the echo of distant wild winds and raging fires still remain

LovernaSite of the old school

The hotel was a gathering place and was the final nail in the coffin of the town when it burned, but the town had started going down hill long before that," said Cooper. "We had movies in the old Legion Hall, and people would come quite a distance to watch them, but once the movies quit, there wasn't much reason for people to come."

Fires and the elements - including dry growing seasons and harsh winters - continued to push Loverna to the depths of despair, with businesses closing and families leaving to more prosperous centres.

For those who continued to stay, it was a constant struggle to keep the town from facing total oblivion - and from literally blowing away.

"In 1976, the old waiting room of the curling rink was torn down, a new cement floor poured and new walls put up. But before the roof could be put on, a terrible wind on the night of November 17 lifted the whole rink and deposited it a few feet away in a big pile - without touching the waiting room," recalled Cooper, who now lives on an acreage with her husband and family about 20 kilometres northeast of Loverna. After a hasty consultation, a new rink was decided upon, and by December 4, it was built and completely shingled."

But their admirable perseverance could not stop Loverna's decline. By 1980, train service to the town ended, and the line's tracks pulled. Soon after, the last grain elevator was transported 20 kilometres northwest of town, across the Alberta border. The last Sports Day was held in 1994. Two years later in 1996, came one more fire, sweeping over the abandoned west side of the community.

"It cleaned out the Loverna. It took out many of the old buildings" said Cooper. "It was a terribly windy day and I believe the cause was determined as being an old power line touching on trees. It also burned all the old houses in the central part of town, and finally stopped at the curling rink, but not before it had caused quite a bit of damage."

"Thankfully Loverna is in an area where there is a lot of oil activity, and there were a lot of water trucks and oil patch workers, as well as people from all over who came to fight the fire," continued Cooper. "Loverna may be a small community, but on that day you would not have known it, as it was full of people working their hardest to save the little town."

Within a short time, the rink was repaired. However, the ghosts had clearly taken over Loverna. There are now only a few full-time residents left, including Cooper's brother Raymond, who was still the mayor in 2002, and unofficial guardian of the town's pioneer memories.

Even if Loverna is now home only to prairie phantoms, and to a few diehard residents, the town's long history as a compassionate and helpful community still lives on in the hearts of most current regional rural residents.

"In a small community it seems that whenever there is trouble of any sort, everyone goes that extra mile to help," said Cooper. "Everybody takes care of everybody else. Everybody cares."