Among the newcomers relocating to Chemainus the past few months are recent retirees, some young families and a 104-year-old woman. Wait, what?
Yes, you read that right. Not many people live to 104, never mind uprooting themselves from what would surely be a comfort zone at that age. But Dorothy Adair, who is actually getting close to turning 105 on Feb. 11, did that during May, moving all the way from Ontario where she’s been all her life to Chemainus.
Adair and her husband Joseph, who died 28 years ago, never had any children. But relatives from Adair’s four brothers living in Port Alberni convinced her to make a permanent home on the Island.
“They were so worried about me, they decided they wanted me out here,” she explained. “They wanted to look after me.”
There’s still a fair bit of distance between them, but nothing like before. They make it work.
Adair shrugs about the move. It was no big deal, just a matter of getting used to new people in a different community. She has already traveled back to Ontario once for a two-week visit from Sept. 28 to Oct. 12 since coming to Chemainus.
“I stayed in five different places while I was there with friends,” she said.
Adair and her husband were both long-time educators. Her obvious intellect might be one factor to account for such longevity, but there’s no indication of it in her family history.
“I never dreamed of anything like that,” she conceded.
“People seem to be living longer, I don’t know what’s the answer.”
Adair tries to pinpoint some of the possible explanations. A sense of humour is one thing that helps.
Adair said people tell her she’s ‘Amazing’ so much that “I’m going to change my name to Grace.”
And what about being the middle child among those two older and two younger brothers? “I always said the middle of the sandwich was the best anyways,” she chuckled.
Adair said she never smoked in her life, never took as much as a single puff of a cigarette ever. She was always just a casual drinker and still has the occasional glass of wine.
Adair’s eyesight is affected by macular degeneration and she has some difficulty hearing, but, hey, she’s 104.
She praises her longtime family doctor Dr. Peter D’Angelo from North York, Ont. “He’s a wonderful person,” Adair said. “I had him for over 30 years.”
D’Angelo referred her to Dr. Shawn Garbedian, an orthopedic surgeon, to have a right knee replacement just last year on Nov. 13.
“That’s not the best day to have it,” Adair said, being the 13th. But at least it wasn’t a Friday and it worked out fine, as she made history at the same time with the knee replacement.
“They said we set a record at the North York hospital, for the oldest person this age since the hospital opened,” she confided.
The risk factors were obviously magnified for Adair because of her age, but she wanted to go ahead no matter what.
“I said I’ve lived to a good age; if this is it, this is it,” she remarked.
It was far from ‘it’ and Adair is doing better than ever. She had her left knee replacement done 10 years ago.
“As far as the knees are concerned, I got over it well,” Adair indicated. “I’d advise anyone to have it – get over that pain.”
Tonsillitis and undergoing a hysterectomy are about the only other health incidents she’s had in her life of any consequence.
“I’ve had wonderful health, I thank God every night for that.”
Adair’s memory is razor sharp and she recounts the details of her life with little difficulty. She was born in the small community of Rannoch, Ontario, but considers nearby St. Mary’s as more like her original home and also where she attended and taught school.
Adair had a 39-year career in teaching before retiring in her late 50s. She and her husband traveled extensively during their years together, stepping onto every continent except Antarctica.
“We got to Mainland China,” she recalled. “I think that was one of the highlights.
“Actually, it was the most fascinating trip we had, really. I saw the Great Wall in the distance and I was so excited to know I’d be on it.”
Adair is loving the people of Chemainus she’s met. The gang at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce downtown is just great, she said, and the people at the Chemainus 55+ Activity Centre always treat her right.
Adair isn’t used to that small-town fuss, having lived in the Toronto area for so long.
“I go down to the bank here now and they call me by my first name,” she said.
“Boy, this is different,” Adair recalled thinking during her earliest visits.
“They’re just lovely there.”