Lena Johnston, a resident of Salmon Arm’s Arbor Lodge, turns 109 on Tuesday, March 6. (Lachlan Labere/Salmon Arm Observer)

B.C. senior celebrates 109th birthday

Salmon Arm’s Lena Johnston looks back on adventure of arriving in the Shuswap

On March 6, Saskatchewan-born Lena Johnston celebrated her 109th birthday, becoming one of the region’s longest-lived residents.

Actually, the celebrating began over the weekend with a dinner out with family, friends, acquaintances and birthday cake. It will continue into this week, with a few more outings and recognition in the B.C. legislature from Shuswap MLA Greg Kyllo.

Asked if she made a 109th birthday wish, Johnston replied, “That everybody will be happy, happy and enjoy it. Because life is too short to be angry. You better be happy and accept what the future brings to you.”

Lena Johnston, now a resident of Salmon Arm’s Arbor Lodge, remembers well the day she stepped from boxcar to begin a new life in the Shuswap.

On Aug. 6, 1937, Johnston, her late husband Johnny and son Roy arrived at the train station in Notch Hill, packed with their belongings, including various animals, packed inside a railway car.

“That was an adventure… We had furniture, we had a little bit of machinery, we had four horses, a cow and a calf, and this crate with the chickens that I had two turkeys…,” said Johnston. “When we got to B.C. we only ended up with one, and we had him for Christmas, our first Christmas in B.C.”

From a farming family of 14, Johnston, as the oldest child, learned the value of hard work, as her family farmed in Saskatchewan and Alberta. While her younger sister Ella helped in the house, Johnston was her father’s “right-hand man” on the farm, riding horses, milking cows and taking care of pigs. She also worked the threshing crew, in charge of feeding the fire that generated steam to run the machinery.

Johnston says life on the farm was a lot of hard work, which may says have contributed to her health and longevity.

“My mother had a brother who lived to 102, so maybe that rubbed off on me. Who knows? That’s a mystery,” said Johnston.

Along with the days of labour, Johnston also fondly remembers her her days of leisure and travels across Canada, through the U.S. and to South America.

“Did you ever come down a spiral staircase? I’ve come down two of them. One of them down east and one of them in the States somewhere,” said Johnston. “I’ve been across Canada to Nova Scotia and seen the reversing hill. And that beautiful Annapolis Valley, that’s a few of my travels. I’ve been through the Panama Canal and that took all day, and if you’ve ever seen the sun come up out of the water, that’s an amazing sight to see.”

These days Johnston enjoys doing puzzles – with help from her fellow Arbor Lodge residents, watching the news and visiting with family, including her grandson. The annual birthday celebrations are also a joy.

“I’ve had parties, I don’t know if there’s another party coming or not. That’s a surprise,” said Johnston.

-With files from Tracy Hughes.


@SalmonArm
lachlan@saobserver.net

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

 

Lena Johnston, a resident of Salmon Arm’s Arbor Lodge, turns 109 on Tuesday, March 6. (Lachlan Labere/Salmon Arm Observer)

Just Posted

Black bear euthanized in Sparwood Heights

Animal reported accessing unsecured garbage in the area, deemed a threat to human safety

Art exhibition a family affair

Multi-generational exhibit “Art of Building” brings Hornquist family closer together

GALLERY: Highlights from the 2018 Fernie Fall Fair

Local cooks and bakers show off their culinary skills; fibre artist spins a yarn

GALLERY: 2018 Fernie Chautauqua hailed best yet

About 8000 people embraced the century-old tradition in Fernie last week

Sparwood Skatepark officially opened

Locals call new skatepark a ‘priceless addition’ to Sparwood

VIDEO: Rare close encounter with whale pod spotted off B.C. waters

Pod of southern resident orca whales breach within arms length of whale watchers

VIDEO: a close-up look at what you were breathing during the wildfire season

Electron microscope images show soot and tar particles generated by worst B.C. fire season

B.C. woman donates $250,000 to ovarian cancer research for friends

Two of Patty Pitts’s friends passed away from the disease within a year

B.C. could provide clues as to how New Brunswick electoral results shake out

Premier Christy Clark faced a strikingly similar scenario following the province’s 2017 election

Ottawa working to iron out kinks in public alert system

The alerts are being credit with saving lives during last week’s tornadoes

Premier John Horgan ponders debate on voting system changes

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson wants one-on-one, no Green

Saganash drops F-bomb in Commons over federal approach to Trans Mountain

NDP’s reconciliation critic accused federal government of ‘wilfully’ violating constitutional duties

VIDEO: B.C. dairy farmer says Trump doesn’t understand the industry

‘They need supply management just as bad as we need to keep it’: sixth generation farmer Devan Toop

VIDEO: Death threat, racist comments spewed over empty seat on B.C. bus

Transit Police are investigating the incident, shared online by fellow passengers on Vancouver bus

Most Read