Victoria retirement community celebrates 403 years of life

Eleanor Pattison hugs a recreation coordinator at the Wellesley Thursday night. Pattison turned 100 on Oct. 17 and was one of four women celebrated at a special party. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Shirley Thurlbeck turned 100 years old on Oct. 20. She was born in 1919 and had three children, five grandchildren and five great grandchildren. Her secret to living to 100 is “seeing the wine glass half full, not half empty.” (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Eula Johnson, born April 6, 1917 in Fort William (now Thunder Bay) Ontario. The 102-year-old says there was no Tv or radio growing up, so she made her own entertainment with friends. “Age is just a neighbour,” she says. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Eleanor Pattison, born Oct. 17, 1919 is 100 this month. Growing up, Pattison remembers delivery men bringing milk and bread to her house. She and Thurlbeck are the Wellesley’s “bingo queens.” (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Jean Kean turned 101 years old on Sept. 25. She was born in 1918 in Coburg, Melbourne Austalia and emigrated to Vancouver in 1948, before arriving in Victoria in 1992. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Eula Johnson, 102, Jean Kean, 101, Eleanor Pattison, 100 and Shirley Thurlbeck, 100 enjoyed a special celebration for the century and beyond residents at the Wellesley, a Victoria retirement home. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)

With bundles of red roses in their arms and plates of black forest cake before them, four women living at The Wellesley celebrated 403 years of life.

The retirement home celebrates birthdays every month – but this October was special. Two women turned 100, bringing the total number of the facility’s ‘100 and over’ residents to four.

“Everywhere I’ve gone I’ve never seen more than one or two 100-year-olds in the same place,” said Stephanie Lumley, activity coordinator at The Wellesley. “So I thought it was a pretty incredible feat.”

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Eula Johnson, 102, Jean Kean, 101, Eleanor Pattison, 100, and Shirley Thurlbeck, 100, had front row seats to old-timey performances from the Canadian Sweet Duo Thursday evening.

In biographies prepared for the The Wellesley newsletter, the women spoke to Lumley about their lives.

Johnson was born in Fort William (now Thunder Bay) Ont. on April 6, 1917. She married at 22 and has two sons, five grandchildren and two great grandchildren. Her secret to living to 102 (and counting) is “living in moderation, keeping healthy and not taking anything for granted.”

Kean, born Sept. 25, 1918 in Melbourne, Australia, moved to Victoria from Vancouver in 1992. From the age of 10, Kean and her twin sister Bonnie were in show business as singers and dancers. She never married or had children and when asked her secret for a long and healthy life said, “I got this far by being independent my whole life and never getting married.”

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Pattison, born Oct. 17, 1919 in Edmonton, Alta was the youngest of seven children. She remember milk and bread being delivered, the roads made from dirt and the sidewalks from wood. At 17 she began working as a switchboard girl and later learned to do the bookkeeping. She married in 1951, has one son and one daughter, as well as two grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

Shirley Thurlbeck, was born Oct. 20, 1919 in Winnipeg and grew up on a five-acre farm. She married in 1940 and has three children, five grandchildren and five great grandchildren. Thurlbeck’s secret to hitting the 100-year-mark? “Seeing the wine glass half full, not half empty.” Lumley says Thurlbeck has lots of spunk and determination, not to mention a great sense of humour.

“What I love about these ladies – all of our residents – is they have fun. We find that they challenge us to put on bigger and better programs,” Lumley says. ““It doesn’t matter how old you get, you can still have fun.”



nina.grossman@blackpress.ca

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