It’s not as uncommon as it used to be, but it’s still a big deal when someone turns 100.
At least 247 people — 183 women and 64 men — from West Kootenay/Boundary have reached the century milestone, if you include those who were born, died, or lived any part of their lives here.
The first, both chronologically and alphabetically, was Archie Aberdeen, a Boundary prospector who became a centenarian on June 10, 1929, despite never visiting a doctor or tasting medicine. The Edinburgh-born Aberdeen was the youngest in a family of 16 and left home age 14 to begin prospecting.
He wandered Europe and Asia, then came to Canada in the early 1860s where he panned for gold on the Fraser River, worked in the Nanaimo coal mines, and holidayed in Gastown before it became Vancouver. He never made a big strike, but it didn’t bother him.
“What good is money anyway, if you have a sack of flour, a little bacon and a shack over your head?” he told a reporter when he was 99. “I remember in Montana once, when my pockets were filled with gold dust I wasn’t able to get a thing to eat for four days. What use was my gold to me then?”
Aberdeen was one of only eight people from this area to become centenarians in the first half of the 20th century.
The oldest person who ever lived in West Kootenay was Katie Chernoff, who was born in Russia in 1877 and died in Castlegar in 1986, age 109. She came to Canada in 1899 as part of the Doukhobor migration and recalled nearly drowning because of heavy storms on the voyage.
That trip was memorable for another reason: she married her husband William on board. They spent the next 58 years together and had four children, 11 grandchildren, 29 great grandchildren, and three great great grandchildren.
Next oldest was Charles Howarth, who died in Calgary in 1994, age 108. He lived in Nakusp for a while and owned the Arrow Lakes Lumber Co. His wife Jessie lived to 101, making them only husband-and-wife centenarians on the list.
There are a few sets of centenarian siblings, though: Serena Lewis of Rossland and Daizley Bunce of Nelson; Joe and Mollie Irving, both of Nelson; and Wilfred and Walter Jowett, both of Edgewood, all reached 100. The only parent-child combination on the list is Bessie White and her daughter Betty Walton, both of Nakusp. Each lived to 101.
Despite its size, Edgewood produced three centenarians: in addition to the aforementioned Jowett brothers, Margaret Williams, who died last year age 103, lived there most of her life.
Tiny Trout Lake City had two: Elizabeth Jowett (no relation to the brothers from Edgewood), who ran the Windsor Hotel and lived to 101, and Dora LeQuesne, daughter of surveyor O.B.N. Wilkie, who was born there in 1903 and lived to 102.
Dora was among 27 West Kootenay/Boundary centenarians actually born here: eight in Nelson, five in Grand Forks, and one each in Kaslo, Salmo, Ainsworth, Greenwood, Rossland, Thrums, Glade, Sandon, Burton, Pass Creek, Grahams Landing, Deanshaven, and Rock Creek (a full list is available at bottom).
The first among them was Lillias Helen Davys Street, born in Nelson in 1893. Her father, Montagu Davys was manager of the Silver King mine in its early days, and she was part of a group of children known as the Toad Mountain Terrors for the pranks they played. She lived to 107.
Neil Tattrie and James Greer were business partners in Sandon and New Denver, and married sisters. Tattrie lived to 100, Greer to 102. Their golfing buddy James Butlln made it to 107.
A small library could be created of books by or about local centenarians: Eli Popoff’s novel Tanya was based on the life of his mother-in-law, Tanya Areshenkoff, who lived to 102. William Fraser of Kootenay Bay, a First World War veteran, wrote Four Score and More and Vintage Vignettes before he died at 101.
Likewise, Joe Irving — the first baby born in Thrums — completed two autobiographies, Red Iron Over the Canyon and Life of an Ironworker before his death last year at 103. He claimed to be the oldest living ironworker, having joined the union in 1936, and helped build the Lions Gate Bridge among many other major projects. In addition, he completed his high school diploma at age 93.
(A Nelson-born centenarian, John Lindsay Townsend, once worked for Irving.)
• Clara Stocker of Cascade established the Holy Silence Prayer Temple in 1904 and wrote a pamphlet that inspired Dr. Albert Grier of Spokane, who founded the Church of the Truth. Stocker died in 1955, age 100, and was the last person buried in the Cascade cemetery.
• Grace Tucker, an Anglican worker assigned to help Japanese Canadians in Slocan during the Second World War, was named to the Order of Canada. She lived to 101.
• Lydia Tarry and husband James immigrated to West Kootenay from England and planted an orchard at what’s now Tarrys. She died in 1945, age 103.
• John Petras of Nelson, who died in 1970 age 104, wasn’t the longest-lived person in his family — or even the second-longest. His mother lived to 107 and his father to 108.
• Mary Orbeliani of Nelson, who died in 1977 age 103, was both a distinguished artist and part of Russian nobility, having married a prince. However, they were forced to flee the country.
• Angelina Daloise, who died in Trail in 1993, age 100, appears to be the only local centenarian who lived to see great great great grandchildren — two of them, in addition to nine grandchildren, 24 great grandchildren, and 13 great great grandchildren.
What’s the secret to such longevity? There are a variety of answers, many or most of which are variations on eating healthy and staying physically and mentally active.
Ethel McIntosh of Trail, who lived to 104, was a longtime proofreader at the Trail Times, where she “never missed a day … Never smoked, never even tried. Took the odd glass of wine.”
Mary Heddle, also of Trail, who lived to 100, credited walking two kilometers per day — and a small glass of wine at dinner. “Oh yeah, it helps,” she said.
Jessie Lloyd of Trail, who reached 104, attributed her long life to her “British upbringing and good genes.”
Don’t follow the herd, advised Margaret Carkner, a former Castlegar and Rossland resident who lived to 101: “I was never one to adopt fads.”
“Hard work never hurt anyone,” counseled Mariana Bryant, who was born in Grand Forks in 1913 and died last year at 102.
Emilie Kulchyski of Castlegar, who lived to 102 said the secret was “to be honest” and help people.
Edwina Rosland of Trail, who lived to 108, said her recipe for a long life included having a positive attitude, an active mind and sharing love with family and friends. Her family in turn credited her genes, diet, positive disposition, ability to challenge herself, and all the codfish she ate growing up in Norway.
Anne Hawkes of Riondel, who turned 101 recently, said “Perhaps because I’ve always been curious, always accepted who I am and tried to make the best of things. But perhaps it’s because of the things I haven’t done. I’ve never worn high heels, never smoked, never worn makeup or dyed my hair. I’ve only ever been drunk once (when I was 20).”
Gladys Leach of Trail, when she turned 102, chalked her age up to a “constant, keen interest in sports” — as well as pickle juice and baked beans. “Mustard pickle juice especially,” she said.