B.C. woman who survived Spanish Flu turns 105

Helen Watson, posing for a photo for her 100th birthday, turned 105 on Saturday (Nov. 21). (File photo)Helen Watson, posing for a photo for her 100th birthday, turned 105 on Saturday (Nov. 21). (File photo)
Helen Watson’s family had this book made to commemorate her 100th birthday. Watson turned 105 on Nov. 21, 2020. (Aaron Hinks photo)Helen Watson’s family had this book made to commemorate her 100th birthday. Watson turned 105 on Nov. 21, 2020. (Aaron Hinks photo)

When Helen Watson’s birthday rolled around last Saturday (Nov. 21), she couldn’t party like she was 100 – as she did five years ago, when she actually turned 100 – but the South Surrey senior wasn’t complaining.

READ MORE: Milestone birthday ‘a whirl’ for South Surrey senior

“It was very nice, everybody was so good to me,” Watson told Peace Arch News Monday (Nov. 23) of her 105th birthday celebration.

“It was just fine the way it was.”

The COVID-19 pandemic firmly quashed any plans that may have otherwise been made to celebrate the occasion in the fashion it deserves.

Pandemic protocols months ago changed how family visits could take place for Watson, and earlier this month – after restrictions were ramped-up due to the ongoing surge in cases – the visits were halted altogether, in the name of safety.

“Nobody’s allowed in right now, and that’s OK with us,” Watson’s son, Larry, said last week. “I understand that they’re very strict there. I’m glad they’re doing that because it’s for the safety of everyone there.”

Larry said he and his wife had shifted how they visit some time ago, to standing at a safe distance outside his mom’s window and speaking to her over the phone. They could see and hear each other more clearly than through the Plexiglas screen that had to separate them inside, he explained, and “it seems like a better visit.”

The 79-year-old said it’s difficult to sum his mother’s life up in just a few lines. Words that describe her have long included artist, independent and feisty.

Now, the description also includes ‘survivor of two global pandemics,’ as Watson was three years old when the Spanish Flu struck in 1918.

“Her parents were affected by it, her father, he went deaf from it,” Larry said.

Larry said his mom is “very surprised… and maybe a little upset” about the current pandemic, “because she can’t see her family.”

“That’s the hard part for her, that she doesn’t get to see anybody.”

When Watson first joined the ranks of centenarian in 2015, she welcomed a PAN reporter into her home, sharing a snippet of her creative side and just a few of the countless memories and experiences she has had – from an early childhood in Saskatchewan, to seeing her first airplane, to meeting her husband while working at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, to travelling solo around the province and into the U.S. into her early nineties.

“I did everything,” she said at the time.

“She wasn’t scared to go out and do things,” her son said Monday.

The family marked Watson’s first 100 years by publishing a book of photos, and this year, made her a blanket to take the chill off. They’re looking forward to days when they can have a proper visit.

“Hopefully everything will be OK in six months or so and her family can get back in and see her.”



tholmes@peacearchnews.com
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

CoronavirusSeniorsSurrey

Just Posted

The Aquatic Centre at Western Financial Place.
Cranbrook Aquatic Center to close temporarily

The annual shutdown of the Aquatic Center at Western Financial Place will begin earlier than scheduled this year and does not have a defined end date at this time.

The latest EKASS survey confirms a steady decline in substance use among EK youth over the years. (image compilation via Pixabay)
Latest survey shows steady decline in adolescent substance use over the years

Starting in 2002, the survey has been conducted every two years to monitor changes in substance use patterns, attitudes and behaviors amongst East Kootenay youth.

The ‘official’ opening of 2nd Edition Coworking in downtown Fernie, a project five years in the making by the Fernie Chamber of Commerce. Left to right: Executive Director of the Fernie Chamber Brad Parsell, incoming President of the Fernie Chamber Norm Fraser, outgoing President of the Fernie Chamber Anita Palmer, and Mayor of Fernie Ange Qualizza. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)
Fernie Chamber cuts the ribbon on 2nd Edition

The new coworking space in Fernie is now ‘officially’ open, but has been operating since early 2021

Residents line up outside the Vernon Recreation Complex for their COVID-19 vaccine Saturday, June 5. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
No appointments necessary for first dose COVID-19 vaccine: Interior Health

People can just show up at clinics, register on the spot and get the shot

Sparwood Mayor David Wilks with the new AED SaveStation installed at the Sparwood Leisure Centre. (Contributed by District of Sparwood)
Sparwood installs public AED

The SaveStation was installed thanks to a grant from CP Rail

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Highway notices like this come down effective June 14. Public health restrictions on non-essential travel and commercial operation have hit local businesses in every corner of B.C. (B.C. government)
Province-wide travel back on in B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan

Gathering changes include up to 50 people for outdoor events

Calgary Stampeders’ Jerome Messam leaps over a tackle during second half CFL western semifinal football action in Calgary, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
CFL football will be played this summer in Canada

Governors vote unanimously in favour to start the ‘21 campaign on Aug. 5

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Citizenship Minister Marco Mendicino holds a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020. The federal government is announcing that Indigenous people can now apply to reclaim their names on passports and other government documents. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous people can now reclaim traditional names on their passports and other ID

Announcement applies to all individuals of First Nations, Inuit and Métis background

Harvesting hay in the Fraser Valley. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
COVID-19: B.C. waives farm income requirement for a second year

Property owners don’t need minimum income for 2022 taxes

Cruise ship passengers arrive at Juneau, Alaska in 2018. Cruise lines have begun booking passengers for trips from Seattle to Alaska as early as this July, bypassing B.C. ports that are not allowed to have visitors until March 2022 under a Canadian COVID-19 restrictions. (Michael Penn/Juneau Empire)
B.C. doesn’t depend on U.S. law to attract cruise ships, Horgan says

Provinces to get update next week on Canada’s border closure

This undated photo provided by Girl Scouts of New Mexico Trails shows a scout donating cookies to firefighters in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, as part of the Hometown Heroes program. As the coronavirus pandemic wore into the spring selling season, many Girl Scout troops nixed their traditional cookie booths for safety reasons. That resulted in millions of boxes of unsold cookies. (Girl Scouts of New Mexico Trails via AP)
Thinner Mints: Girl Scouts have millions of unsold cookies

Since majority of cookies are sold in-person, pandemic made the shortfall expected

In this artist’s sketch, Nathaniel Veltman makes a video court appearance in London, Ont., on June 10, 2021 as Justice of the Peace Robert Seneshen (top left) and lawyer Alayna Jay look on. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Alexandra Newbould
Terror charges laid against London attack suspect

Crown says Nathaniel Veltman’s four counts of first-degree murder constitute an act of terrorism

Most Read