Canada’s old­est woman dead at 114

The Prince George Citizen - - News - Ad­ina BRESGE

TORONTO — As Canada’s old­est woman, Ellen “Dolly” Gibb’s zest for life won her na­tional at­ten­tion.

Once birthdays went into the triple dig­its, she would re­ceive cards from the Queen and politi­cians at all lev­els of gov­ern­ment. Reporters would come knock­ing to learn the se­crets to her longevity.

Af­ter the 114-year-old’s death ear­lier this week, fam­ily mem­bers cred­ited Gibb’s long life not only to good ge­net­ics and healthy habits, but her love for her sprawl­ing brood of chil­dren, grand­chil­dren, great-grand­chil­dren and great­great-grand­chil­dren.

“She was pretty connected to all of us,” her grand­son Dave Crozier said by phone Fri­day. “We feel so for­tu­nate to have had her in our lives for so long.”

He said Gibb died peace­fully Wed­nes­day at a nurs­ing home in North Bay, Ont., with her daugh­ter, Sue Crozier, who is Dave’s mother, hold­ing her hand.

“When­ever you think of her gone, you just think of how easy she went,” Sue Crozier said.

“We should all be so lucky to go that way.”

Dave Crozier jokes that Gibb was the world’s old­est “he­li­copter mom.”

Even as she ap­proached 80 years old, Sue Crozier, who lived with her mother, said Gibb would worry ev­ery time she left the room.

“I think she re­ally felt she was look­ing af­ter me,” Sue Crozier said. “It could have been some part of what kept mom alive so long.”

This ma­tri­ar­chal tenac­ity ex­tended to the rest of her kin, said Brit­tany Dug­gan, Gibb’s great­grand­daugh­ter. She would spend hours study­ing pho­tos of fam­ily mem­bers, many of whom she rarely got to see.

“She was sharp, but she also worked at it. She just loved peo­ple. She loved ev­ery­one who came through her house,” Dug­gan said by phone from Squamish.

“Re­ally her pres­ence and visit­ing her brought the fam­ily to­gether.”

Born in Win­nipeg on April 25, 1905, Gibb was the daugh­ter of a Metis woman and a Scot­tish-Cana­dian prospec­tor who had sought his for­tune in the Klondike gold rush, said Dug­gan.

When Gibb was five her mother died af­ter giv­ing birth to an­other daugh­ter, and her fa­ther raised Gibb and her sib­lings on a small farm in what is now Win­nipeg.

Gibb de­vel­oped an in­ter­est in fashion in her teenage years, which earned her the nickname “Dolly.” As a young adult, Gibb put her pas­sion to pro­fes­sional use by work­ing at the Ea­ton’s de­part­ment store, but was forced to quit when she got mar­ried to her hus­band, Dave.

“She al­ways sounded dis­ap­pointed when she talked about it,” said Dug­gan. “I think if she had lived at a dif­fer­ent time, she would have kept work­ing.”

Gibb be­came a home­maker, and the young cou­ple had two daugh­ters. In 1941, the fam­ily moved to Thun­der Bay, Ont., where Dave took a job at an airplane man­u­fac­turer as part of the ef­fort to fight the Sec­ond World War.

Af­ter 40 years of mar­riage, Gibb lost her hus­band in 1968, but in a show of in­de­pen­dence, lived alone in their home un­til the age of 100, said Dug­gan.

Over the years, peo­ple have of­fered a wide ar­ray of ex­pla­na­tions for Gibb’s longevity.

She never smoked, and only started drinking in her sev­en­ties, en­joy­ing a daily beer in her later years. She walked al­most ev­ery­where, and ate in mod­er­a­tion, in­clud­ing in­dul­gences such as cream and but­ter as well as Tim­bits.

But Dug­gan be­lieves that the force that pro­pelled Gibb for more than a cen­tury was her fiery spirit.

“She wasn’t try­ing to out­live any­one or set any records,” she said.

“I think if you asked her, she would have said (the se­cret is) to stand up for what you be­lieve in.”

In ad­di­tion to her hus­band, Gibb was also pre-de­ceased by a daugh­ter and grand­daugh­ter.

She is sur­vived by her daugh­ter, nine grand­chil­dren, 22 great­grand­chil­dren and 12 great-great­grand­chil­dren, along with a large ex­tended fam­ily.

A cel­e­bra­tion of her life will be held Sat­ur­day in North Bay.

DAVE CROZIER HANDOUT PHOTO

Ellen “Dolly” Gibb is shown in a 2014 handout photo. Canada’s old­est woman, whose longevity and zest for life won her na­tional at­ten­tion has died at 114.

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