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