Vivaciously funny, incredibly kind
Time is of no consequence to those who appreciate every minute.
Helen Holmes celebrated her 101st birthday on July 8. The centenarian refers to herself as “just an old lady”, but her quick wit and sense of humour tell a different story. Her secret to a long and healthy life?
“Live the best life you know how, and be kind. It’s a difficult question…it’s their business how other people live.”
Helen was born near Chesterville, in the Maple Ridge area on Ball Road. “I always loved school,” she explains. “Maybe that’s why my oldest son is a teacher.”
In April of 1938, she married Robert (Bob) Holmes, launching a love story that spanned nearly 73 years.
Together, they had four children – two sons and two daughters. Tragically, their youngest son, Allan – a volunteer firefighter for Iroquois – was one of five men struck and killed by a train while responding to a call in 1981.
“He’s been gone 40 years,” notes Helen. “Everybody has their heartbreaks once in a while. Allan was a very good man.”
Bob was born in Winchester Springs, and that’s where the couple lived for the first year of their marriage, before purchasing their own farm on Holmes Road, now County Road 38, where they raised Holsteins.
“We could see the trains go by, and it was only a little ways to drive into town. We went with horse for a long time, before we could afford a car.” The family also lived without electricity until 1948. “We got it on my birthday that year,” Helen says.
“Back in those days, we had blinds on all the windows – dark green – I went all over the house and pulled the blinds down and it was quite a thrill, turning the lights on.”
Helen says they always had everything they needed, even if doing the washing was a bit more difficult back then. “Our families were very good to us. If there was something I needed, I got it. My mother-in-law, and my own mother for that matter, were lovely women.”
The couple planted 14 apple trees during their first year on the farm. “We always had more than we needed, so we’d walk down the road and give them to our neighbours.”
Bob passed away, at the age of 100, the day before Christmas in 2010. “I couldn’t have found a better husband and friend…we loved each other very much. He was a good man – very kind. The children were daddy’s girls and daddy’s boys too,” she smiles.
The couple’s legacy includes: 5 granddaughters, 7 grandsons, 7 great-granddaughters, 1 great-great grandson and 4 great-great granddaughters.
“One hundred years is a long time, but I’ve enjoyed every minute of it, because I can knit and sew and do things for myself. I’ve made hundreds of quilts by hand…baby blankets and bigger quilts for wedding gifts.”
Helen recalls when the Winchester District Memorial Hospital was built. “We made pillows for the beds. Everybody made food – pickles, apple sauce, jellies. We washed, painted, hung curtains …anything to help the hospital.”
Helen moved to the Garden Villa in Chesterville in 2011. She says it’s a nice place to live and the staff are wonderful.
“The people who bought our farm house from us still live there,” she notes. “They brought me a beautiful bouquet of peonies from the garden.”