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

PHOTOS: Langley holds birthday bash for late Queen Victoria

Thousands came out Monday to celebrate May Day with a parade, pole dancing, and a party in the park.

Tyler O’Neill homers in three straight games

Slugger from Maple Ridge back in the Majors

VIDEO: AOK took Langley home and ‘made it amazing’

Volunteers did two weeks of repairs and retrofitting to make the Adam family house safe and livable.

2018 Cloverdale Rodeo and Country Fair Round-up

Looking back on the community events, rodeo and country fair that took place over May long weekend

VIDEO: Flames destroy abandon Langley home Monday

Fire ripped through a single-storey house in Brookswood on the holiday Monday.

VIDEO: After the floods, comes the cleanup as Grand Forks rebuilds

Business owners in downtown wonder how long it will take for things to go back to normal

Transportation Minister disappointed by BC Ferries plan to remove fuel rebates

Claire Trevena says she is ‘extremely disappointed’ by a plan by BC Ferries to remove fuel rebates

B.C. sues Alberta over bill that could ‘turn oil taps off’

Lawsuit is the latest move in the two provinces’ ongoing feud over the Kinder Morgan pipeline

Liberal government introduces measures to update Canada’s family laws

Justice officials say there have not been substantial updates to federal family laws in 20 years

B.C. mom threatens legal action against sunscreen company

Caleb Jordan, 6, was covered in blisters 20 minutes after using Banana Boat sunscreen

BC Games Society president to step down

Kelly Mann says it’s time for a change after 26 years with the society

B.C. politicians framed by anonymous sticky-note doodler

Insider has been posting caricatures from the B.C. legislature to social media

27 years since initial police probe, polygamist leader to be sentenced in June

Prosecutor recommend up to 6 months jail, defence asks for conditional or absolute discharge

Governments kick in cash for B.C. farmers, food processors

Ottawa, Victoria contribute $14 million over five years to help develop new products, processes

Most Read