On Sunday, Oct. 25, Louise Plewes turns 105. She continues to live independently at Stevenson Place, a Comox retirement home where she plays bridge on a weekly basis.
The independent living residence recently hosted a well-attended tea in her honour. The birthday cake did not contain enough space for 105 candles.
What’s her secret to longevity?
“I don’t know,” Louise said with a laugh. “I just play bridge.”
Her daughter Marilyn attributes it partly to a love of knowledge, learning and staying interested in world affairs. Louise watches the news every day, and votes in elections. She has never been keen on medications or medical visits, and also has a high pain threshold.
“It (pain) just isn’t significant,” Louise said. “You just persevere — and carry on.”
Born in Port Colborne, Ont. in 1910, the self-described tomboy played baseball and volleyball. But Louise also enjoyed playing the piano and organ.
Her father was a pastor — which meant the family moved every four years. They lived in small towns such as Gladstone in rural Ontario, and later in Weyburn, Sask. After high school, Louise took office training and landed a job as a legal secretary in Toronto. It paid $10 a week.
She met her husband Evan in 1933 when he moved into the same boarding house. They married in 1935. Because money was scarce, the couple waited four years to have their honeymoon — a cruise to Nassau, Bahamas and Havana, Cuba.
After raising three children, Louise embarked on a career at the University of Alberta in the department of educational psychology in 1955. She fought for benefits for female employees and, after 10 years, succeeded in getting them back-dated.
Louise began volunteering with the Parkinson’s Society of Alberta when Evan was diagnosed with the disease in his early-70s. Twenty years later, an award was bestowed each year in her name for outstanding volunteerism.
Evan passed away in 1983. The following year, Louise travelled to New Zealand and Australia. Hawaii came next in 1985 — the same year she bought her first computer and began work on her family’s genealogy. She has also ventured to China, South Africa, Germany and Scandinavia.
At age 93 — after 50 years in Edmonton — Louise moved to B.C. to be closer to her family. She has eight grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren.
Louise has joined the Comox United Church and the Probus Club, an organization for retirees who want to maintain a social network. She was given an honorary lifetime membership in 2010.