…a Scotch and water plus a whole lot of poppies
Doris Townsend celebrates 105th birthday Friday
While a lot has changed in the last 105 years, the sprightly energy of one of Drumheller’s oldest residents remains firmly intact.
This Friday, March 18, Doris Townsend will be celebrating her 105th birthday. Coming to Drumheller in 1928 as a teen, she has spent all but 17 years of her life in the valley. As a young woman she worked hard to make her way. As a young mother she worked hard with her husband overseas, and her dedication to the Legion continued for years afterward. Today at 105, she jokes about being tired all the time, but she has earned her rest honestly.
At 17, she came to Drumheller on her own to unite with her father and step-mother who had already made the trek from England. She began working as a nanny for the Pappas family, who owned a boarding house. She also worked at the Drumheller Hospital in the laundry department.
Not long after her arrival, her parents moved to Australia to join her brothers, who had earlier immigrated there as Dreadnought Boys, a program to bring young men from Britain to Australia.
Only in Drumheller for a couple years, she met her husband John Culshaw and they started a family. She had a daughter Doreen before John went overseas during World War II.
This is when she got involved with the Legion and the Ladies Auxiliary. She says her motherin-law spurred her on.
During the war, she kept busy making care packages, which included hand knitted socks, messages of encouragement and cigarettes.
“We did a lot of work for the guys and they appreciated it,” she recalls.
Following the war, she continued to support the Legion. She was well known for selling poppies at the post office before they were put in boxes in stores.
“I enjoyed doing it, meeting the people and talking to them,” she said. “I used to do that every year.”
She became a life member and was president of the Ladies Auxiliary five times. In 2002, she received the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal for her service.
She had two sons Ron and Keith. Her husband John passed away in 1959. In 1963, she married Art Townsend.
Over the years, she kept in touch with a childhood friend in England named Aida and 50 years after she left England the friends were reunited when Art and Doris travelled overseas. Aida and her husband also made the trip to Drumheller to visit.
Doris and Art travelled extensively and attended Legion conventions across Canada. They also travelled to Australia three times to visit her parents and then on to South Korea.
One way to get Doris to smile is ask her about her Legion days, and her drink of choice.
“I enjoyed Scotch and water, people thought it was wrong to do it, but I never thought it was wrong. I went ahead and did what I wanted to do,” she chuckles. Later on she began to enjoy spritzers. Doris has six grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren and five great-great-grandchildren.
Doris remained in her home until December of last year. She now resides in the Continuing Care Unit at the Drumheller Health Centre.
“This is my lovely breakfast,” she laughs, adding she enjoys the social aspect of her new living arrangements.
“I leave my door open so people see me… I do love to talk,” she said. “Often old people live alone and they really shouldn’t.”
Doris will be celebrating her birthday with members of her family.
Doris Townsend… turning 105 Friday