A Les­son in Longevity

Stanstead Journal - - FRONT PAGE - Vic­to­ria Vanier, North Hat­ley

The Con­naught Home, in North Hat­ley, hosted a birthday party yes­ter­day for five lo­cal cen­te­nar­i­ans, all women and most of whom lived all of their one hun­dred or more years in the Eastern Town­ships.

The youngest of the five, at 99 years old un­til the end of the month, was Eve­lyn Jack­son who sat down for an in­ter­view on the deck of the Con­naught Home last Fri­day. “I lived in Ma­gog al­most all my life. I was born in New Hamp­shire but, when I was three, our house burnt down to the ground. I can still re­mem­ber that fire. We moved up to Ma­gog to live with my mother’s sis­ter,” re­called Mrs. Jack­son whose maiden name is Buzzell.

Eve­lyn’s teen years, in Ma­gog in the 1920’s, had their good mo­ments. “For fun we played all the games: soft­ball, bad­minton, what­ever was be­ing played. Dur­ing the war we were short of su­gar in Ma­gog, but when the boys from Stanstead came to visit, they’d bring su­gar and we’d make a cake!” Lo­cal his­to­ri­ans must

surely have an in­ter­est­ing ex­pla­na­tion as to why the boys from Stanstead had ex­tra su­gar back then.

Her face lit up when she told me how she met her hus­band, Eddie Jack­son. “Eddie came from Eng­land on a boat with a bunch of other boys. I knew him a long time be­fore he asked me, one Sun­day, to go for a walk. I had a loose tooth in my mouth so I was afraid to talk! He was a real gen­tle­man and he’d al­ways tip his hat in greet­ing. I was 17 when we got mar­ried.”

Eve­lyn and Eddie had two sons, both of whom worked out­side of the coun­try af­ter they grew up, so Eve­lyn has done a fair amount of trav­el­ing. “We went to Fiji, Eng­land, Hawaii. In Hawaii they dug a hole in the ground and cooked a pig in the hole – it was quite good. The girls were danc­ing in nice dresses; it was all very dif­fer­ent. I liked all the places that we vis­ited; most of the peo­ple you meet are nice, wher­ever you go, and ev­ery place has some­thing,” said Eve­lyn, re­veal­ing that pos­i­tive-minded dis­po­si­tion that seems present in ev­ery cen­te­nar­ian I’ve ever spo­ken with.

I asked Mrs. Jack­son what, in her life, she thought helped her age so well. “I worked hard. I had a big flower gar­den that I would get out to work in right af­ter break­fast.” She also did a lot of work for oth­ers, bring­ing flow­ers from her gar­den and food from her kitchen to church dinners. “Our min­is­ter used to kid me and tell me that I should start a soup kitchen. Eve­lyn of­ten vis­ited the Ma­gog Hospi­tal with her Min­is­ter, talk­ing with pa­tients and earn­ing her­self the nick­name of “The Min­is­ter’s nurse”. Asked if she was very care­ful about what she ate, Mrs. Jack­son laughed and said: “I ate ev­ery­thing. I could eat as much as my boys at the sup­per ta­ble and I never got fat!”

Dur­ing the last few years that Mrs. Jack­son lived on her own at her house in Ma­gog, af­ter the death of her hus­band and be­fore she moved to an as­sisted liv­ing fa­cil­ity, it was her cat that she ap­pre­ci­ated most. “He was thrown onto my porch as a kit­ten. At night I’d clap my hands for him to come home. He’s in Toronto now. It’s too bad that when se­niors leave their homes they can’t bring their an­i­mals with them. It’s hard to lose your home.”

Since we are in the mid­dle of an elec­tion, I asked Eve­lyn is she was fol­low­ing the cam­paign. “No. I don’t be­lieve the politi­cians. I re­mem­ber a long time ago when the mayor of Ma­gog was promis­ing to get a bridge built to cross the river; it never got built. Af­ter you get fooled a few times…It’s a sad state.”

Mrs. Jack­son, who came to live at the Con­naught Home in June af­ter liv­ing at a CHSLD (long term care fa­cil­ity) in Ma­gog, seemed at home in her fairly new sur­round­ings. “The first night I was here it was “Party Night” and there was a ta­ble full of food. I ate a ham­burger and my son said he’d never seen any­one en­joy a ham­burger so much.” Be­sides the good food, Eve­lyn likes the ex­er­cise class once a week, the mu­si­cal af­ter­noons and the bingo. “It would be nice if I could get out and walk in town a lit­tle – I’ve al­ways loved to walk. But I need some­one to come with me and the girls here don’t have the time. They work very hard,” ad­mit­ted Eve­lyn.

Near­ing the end of the in­ter­view, I had to laugh when Mrs. Jack­son told me about the last time that she was in­ter­viewed by a re­porter. “That re­porter talked so fast and asked me so many ques­tions, by the end I didn’t know if I was telling the truth any­more!” she said with a chuckle.

If any­one would like to take Mrs. Jack­son for the oc­ca­sional stroll in down­town North Hat­ley, they would be very wel­come. “We are al­ways look­ing for vol­un­teers, es­pe­cially for tak­ing se­niors for small walks. Vol­un­teers can also read to se­niors, help them play bingo or do chair ex­er­cises with them,” com­mented Donna Barker of the Con­naught Home. Any­one in­ter­ested in vol­un­teer­ing at the Con­naught Home can call Mrs. Barker at 819 8422164, ext. 21

Photo Vic­to­ria Vanier

Cen­te­nar­ian Eve­lyn Jack­son, who was an avid gar­dener, likes to spend sum­mer af­ter­noons on the deck of the Con­naught Home amid the sum­mer flow­ers.

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