She will likely be the last person to celebrate her 100th birthday in the Okanagan before the new decade hits.
Born Dec. 31, 1919, Kelowna resident Mary Cole-Minett celebrated her centennial on Tuesday with family and friends.
Leading up to the milestone, Cole-Minett has collected countless memories from her childhood in England, working in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAF) and starting her new life in Canada.
During her first 20 years in the 20th century, Cole-Minett recalls one activity that helped her to start living a long and healthy life.
“I love drinking my tea. Pamela (Mary’s daughter) still gets mad at me when I drink a lot of tea. It has to be Tetley too.”
Pamela and Mary have lived side by side together for almost 40 years, looking after one another during the highs and lows.
One of those highs before Pamela was born occurred back in 1939, during Cole-Minett’s time with the WAF which ultimately set her on her new path to Canada.
“I met my ex-husband — Wilbur Wright — through the force’s concert parties. He played piano and I would always want to be in the front watching him play.”
The centenarian also holds musical talent herself. Minett sang with Vera Lynn, a famous English singer, on multiple occasions during the concert parties — and still recalls her favourite songs that she sung with Lynn.
“My favourite song to sing with her was White Cliffs of Dover and There’ll Always Be An England.
“It was a big thing in those days to sing with someone like that.”
Lynn also has had a long and healthy life — she celebrated her 102nd birthday last March.
After immigrating to Trenton, Ont., in 1955, Cole-Minett later moved with Wright to Jasper, AB, in the 1970s when he accepted a director’s position with the Jasper Park Lodge.
While they both went their separate ways in Canada, Cole-Minett moved to California with Pamela before calling Kelowna home in the 1980s.
Cole-Minett said there are multiple reasons why she’s stayed in Kelowna all these years.
“Kelowna is the best place I’ve ever lived in. We’ve got wonderful people around us and everyone is like a family here,” said Cole-Minett.
“Our friends care about us and it made a big difference in our lives.”
It’s not only close friends that have contacted Cole-Minett to wish her a happy birthday.
Recently, she received a letter from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau congratulating her on her long and healthy life.
She’s expecting a letter from Queen Elizabeth next.
Heading into the new decade, Cole-Minett is the oldest and only survivor of seven siblings in her family.
To anyone else looking to celebrate their 100th birthday, Cole-Minett has one last piece of advice.
“Reading is a great thing and it helps to keep your mind alive,” said Cole-Minett. “It’s one of the best things you can do, to read.”
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