B.C. woman who survived Spanish Flu turns 105

Helen Watson, posing for a photo for her 100th birthday, turned 105 on Saturday (Nov. 21). (File photo)Helen Watson, posing for a photo for her 100th birthday, turned 105 on Saturday (Nov. 21). (File photo)
Helen Watson’s family had this book made to commemorate her 100th birthday. Watson turned 105 on Nov. 21, 2020. (Aaron Hinks photo)Helen Watson’s family had this book made to commemorate her 100th birthday. Watson turned 105 on Nov. 21, 2020. (Aaron Hinks photo)

When Helen Watson’s birthday rolled around last Saturday (Nov. 21), she couldn’t party like she was 100 – as she did five years ago, when she actually turned 100 – but the South Surrey senior wasn’t complaining.

READ MORE: Milestone birthday ‘a whirl’ for South Surrey senior

“It was very nice, everybody was so good to me,” Watson told Peace Arch News Monday (Nov. 23) of her 105th birthday celebration.

“It was just fine the way it was.”

The COVID-19 pandemic firmly quashed any plans that may have otherwise been made to celebrate the occasion in the fashion it deserves.

Pandemic protocols months ago changed how family visits could take place for Watson, and earlier this month – after restrictions were ramped-up due to the ongoing surge in cases – the visits were halted altogether, in the name of safety.

“Nobody’s allowed in right now, and that’s OK with us,” Watson’s son, Larry, said last week. “I understand that they’re very strict there. I’m glad they’re doing that because it’s for the safety of everyone there.”

Larry said he and his wife had shifted how they visit some time ago, to standing at a safe distance outside his mom’s window and speaking to her over the phone. They could see and hear each other more clearly than through the Plexiglas screen that had to separate them inside, he explained, and “it seems like a better visit.”

The 79-year-old said it’s difficult to sum his mother’s life up in just a few lines. Words that describe her have long included artist, independent and feisty.

Now, the description also includes ‘survivor of two global pandemics,’ as Watson was three years old when the Spanish Flu struck in 1918.

“Her parents were affected by it, her father, he went deaf from it,” Larry said.

Larry said his mom is “very surprised… and maybe a little upset” about the current pandemic, “because she can’t see her family.”

“That’s the hard part for her, that she doesn’t get to see anybody.”

When Watson first joined the ranks of centenarian in 2015, she welcomed a PAN reporter into her home, sharing a snippet of her creative side and just a few of the countless memories and experiences she has had – from an early childhood in Saskatchewan, to seeing her first airplane, to meeting her husband while working at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, to travelling solo around the province and into the U.S. into her early nineties.

“I did everything,” she said at the time.

“She wasn’t scared to go out and do things,” her son said Monday.

The family marked Watson’s first 100 years by publishing a book of photos, and this year, made her a blanket to take the chill off. They’re looking forward to days when they can have a proper visit.

“Hopefully everything will be OK in six months or so and her family can get back in and see her.”



tholmes@peacearchnews.com
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

CoronavirusSeniorsSurrey

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Eighteen-year-old Aidan Webber died in a marine accident in 2019. He was a Canadian Junior BMX champion from Nanaimo. (Submitted)
Inadequate safety training a factor in teen BMX star’s workplace death in 2019

Aidan Webber was crushed by a barge at a fish farm near Port Hardy

Hecht Beach cabin in ashes. (Submitted)
Beloved secret cabin lost to fire on the North Island’s west coast

The trappers cabin was shared with locals, but kept mostly secret

An Atlantic salmon is seen during a Department of Fisheries and Oceans fish health audit at a fish farm near Campbell River, B.C. in 2018. Mowi Canada has applied to the Federal Court of Canada for a judicial review of the decision by Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan to phase out salmon farming in the Discovery Islands by June, 2022. (Canadian Press/Jonathan Hayward photo)
Major B.C. salmon farms seek court intervention in Discovery Islands ban

Fisheries minister is phasing out operations in the area by June 2022

Michelle Lau with donations that have already been contributed for families kept away from home due to the Town Park Apartments fire. (Zoe Ducklow Photo)
Fundraiser started for tenants left hanging after apartment fire

Tenants not allowed back in to get personal items, so in need of clothes, food, gift cards

A mattress on fire gutted the second floor hallway at Town Park Apartments C-block Jan. 17. (Port Hardy Fire Rescue images)
‘Suspicious’ Port Hardy apartment fire could keep tenants out of their homes for months

A burning mattress created smoke and heat, causing several tenants to jump from windows

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, speaks at a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
B.C. records 500 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, 14 deaths

Outbreak at Surrey Pretrial jail, two more in health care

A suspect has been arrested in connection with fires at Drinkwater Elementary (pictured) and École Mount Prevost. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Arson suspect arrested after fires at Cowichan Valley schools

Drinkwater Elementary and Mount Prevost schools hit within a week

A woman writes a message on a memorial mural wall by street artist James “Smokey Devil” Hardy during a memorial to remember victims of illicit drug overdose deaths on International Overdose Awareness Day, in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, on Monday, August 31, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. paramedics respond to record-breaking number of overdose calls in 2020

On the front lines, COVID-19 has not only led to more calls, but increased the complexity

Chartwell Malaspina Care Residence in Nanaimo. (News Bulletin file photo)
Two Nanaimo care-home residents have died during COVID-19 outbreak

Death reported Monday was the second related to Chartwell Malaspina outbreak, says Island Health

Rod Bitten of Union Bay won $500,000 in the Lotto Max draw on Jan. 15. Photo supplied
Vancouver Island electrician gets shocking surprise with $500K Extra win

Rod Bitten has been hard at work with home renovations, which is… Continue reading

Oyster River Fire Rescue members were called out to a suspicious fire in Black Creek. Two vehicles parked at a private residence were destroyed by fire. Photo courtesy Oyster River Fire Rescue
Suspicious fire destroys two vehicles at Vancouver Island residence

Oyster River Fire Rescue personnel were dispatched to a fire at a… Continue reading

Members of the BC RCMP Explosive Disposal Unit (EDU) is on route to Drummond Park opposite of Fulford Habour on Saltspring Island after the discovery of a suspicious cylindrical-shaped device. (Google/Screencap)
Bomb disposal unit en route to Salt Spring Island after suspicious device found in park

Police say a resident discovered the device Wednesday morning in Drummond Park opposite BC Ferries terminal

Seven streets in downtown Duncan, including Station Street, will soon have new native names added to their signage. (Submitted graphic)
New Duncan street signs will be in English and Hul’q’umi’num

Seven streets to get additional names in First Nations language

Southern resident killer whales in B.C. waters. Research shows the population’s females are more negatively influenced by vessel traffic than males. (Photo supplied by Ocean Wise Conservation Association)
Female orcas less likely to feed in presence of vessel traffic: study

Research the southern resident population raises concerns over reproduction capacity

Most Read