Lena Johnston, a resident of Salmon Arm’s Arbor Lodge, turns 109 on Tuesday, March 6. (Lachlan Labere/Salmon Arm Observer)

Salmon Arm’s Lena Johnston celebrates 109

Arbor Lodge resident looks back on adventure of arriving in the Shuswap

On March 6, Saskatchewan-born Lena Johnston celebrated her 109th birthday, becoming one of the region’s longest-lived residents.

Actually, the celebrating began over the weekend with a dinner out with family, friends, acquaintances and birthday cake. It will continue into this week, with a few more outings and recognition in the B.C. legislature from Shuswap MLA Greg Kyllo.

Asked if she made a 109th birthday wish, Johnston replied, “That everybody will be happy, happy and enjoy it. Because life is too short to be angry. You better be happy and accept what the future brings to you.”

Lena Johnston, now a resident of Salmon Arm’s Arbor Lodge, remembers well the day she stepped from a boxcar to begin a new life in the Shuswap.

On Aug. 6, 1937, Johnston, her late husband Johnny and son Roy arrived at the train station in Notch Hill, packed with their belongings, including various animals, packed inside a railway car.

“That was an adventure… We had furniture, we had a little bit of machinery, we had four horses, a cow and a calf, and this crate with the chickens that I had two turkeys…,” said Johnston. “When we got to B.C. we only ended up with one, and we had him for Christmas, our first Christmas in B.C.”

From a farming family of 14, Johnston, as the oldest child, learned the value of hard work, as her family farmed in Saskatchewan and Alberta. While her younger sister Ella helped in the house, Johnston was her father’s “right-hand man” on the farm, riding horses, milking cows and taking care of pigs. She also worked the threshing crew, in charge of feeding the fire that generated steam to run the machinery.

Johnston says life on the farm was a lot of hard work, which may have contributed to her health and longevity.

“My mother had a brother who lived to 102, so maybe that rubbed off on me. Who knows? That’s a mystery,” said Johnston.

Along with the days of farm labour, Johnston also fondly remembers her days of leisure and travels across Canada, through the U.S. and to South America.

“Did you ever come down a spiral staircase? I’ve come down two of them. One of them down east and one of them in the States somewhere,” said Johnston. “I’ve been across Canada to Nova Scotia and seen the reversing hill. And that beautiful Annapolis Valley, that’s a few of my travels. I’ve been through the Panama Canal and that took all day, and if you’ve ever seen the sun come up out of the water, that’s an amazing sight to see.”

These days Johnston enjoys doing puzzles – with help from her fellow Arbor Lodge residents, watching the news and visiting with family, including her grandson. The annual birthday celebrations are also a joy.

“I’ve had parties, I don’t know if there’s another party coming or not. That’s a surprise,” said Johnston.

-With files from Tracy Hughes.

Just Posted

Kelowna talent goes to international stage

Julia Chambers is now attending Tisch at New York University

Break and enter suspect nabbed with help from Kelowna witness

The woman recognized the suspect’s vehicle

Ignoring climate change poses potential catastrophe for B.C.

Fisheries scientist says ‘extraordinary challenges’ in water management lie ahead

Person hit by vehicle in West Kelowna

The incident occurred Thursday afternoon

Despite legislation to introduce it, Kelowna plans to keep up call to scrap speculation tax

City says it will keep working with other municipalities affected by the tax

B.C. NDP retreats again on empty-home tax for urban areas

Rate reduced for all Canadians, dissident mayors to get annual meeting

Watch it again: Kelowna mayoral candidates square off

Missing the LIVE Kelowna mayoral debate watch now

Okanagan water conference builds connections

Experts gathered to discuss water and fisherie sustainability objectives

Two B.C. cannabis dispensaries raided on legalization day

Port Alberni dispensaries ticketed for “unlawful sale” of cannabis

Canada not sending anyone to Saudi business summit

Sources insist Ottawa never intended to dispatch a delegation this time around

Earthquake early-warning sensors installed off coast of B.C.

The first-of-its kind warning sensors are developed by Ocean Networks Canada

VPD ordered to co-operate with B.C. police watchdog probe

According to the IIO, a court is ordering Vancouver police to co-operate with an investigation into a fatal shooting

B.C. woman looks to reduce stigma surrounding weed-smoking moms

Shannon Chiarenza, a Vancouver mom of two, started weedmama.ca to act as a guide for newcomers to legal cannabis, specifically mothers

B.C. teen gives away tickets to Ellen Degeneres show, plans O Canada welcome

The Grade 9 student wanted to give away tickets in the spirit of inclusivity

Most Read