Celebrating a century: 3 Edmontonians celebrate turning 100 during COVID-19 pandemic

Inge Popke had planned to drive to Edmonton from her home in Denver, Colo. this month to celebrate her father’s 100th birthday alongside relatives from across Canada and the United States. 

Her father, Adolf Hill, lives in the not-for-profit Shepherd’s Care Foundation’s care centre in Mill Woods, where he celebrated his centennial today.

Hill received a greeting from the Queen, who happens to share his birthday, but thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, he was not able to celebrate in person with his family.

“We’re all actually filled with sadness that we couldn’t be there because this is such a momentous time, but we take comfort knowing that he’s well taken care of,” Popke said.

As pandemic-related travel restrictions continue and seniors’ residences remain temporarily closed to visitors, family members are finding creative ways to mark their loved ones’ milestones.

The staff at Hill’s residence baked a cake and helped organize a Zoom conference on Saturday with family members. Hill’s son, a violinist, serenaded him twice during the call with “Happy Birthday.”

“He was so excited to see us all and got emotional a couple of times,” Popke said.

The family plans to celebrate Hill’s birthday again in person, once it is safe to do so.

A birthday and a birth

At Canterbury Court, a supportive living facility in Laurier Heights run by the not-for-profit Canterbury Foundation, staff hold lunchtime birthday celebrations for residents on the last Monday of each month.

Resident Mary Palmer will be honoured next week for turning 100 earlier in April.

Her family marked the occasion by sending videos and surprising her with the news of a new great-grandchild.

Palmer’s granddaughter, Caitlin Sprokkreeff, gave birth to a baby girl last week, just five days after her grandmother’s birthday.

Mary Palmer virtually meets her great-granddaughter, who was born just five days after her 100th birthday. (Submitted by Nicole Lauzon)

“Nan’s not always the easiest when it comes to talking online, but she was beyond excited,” Sprokkreeff said, speaking with CBC through video chat as her newborn sipped milk from a bottle.

Sprokkreeff named her daughter Palmer in honour of the surname that belonged to both her mother and grandmother.

Mary Palmer lives with dementia and does not remember all the details surrounding her birthday, but recalls seeing her baby granddaughter for the first time on an iPad.

“She didn’t say much!” Palmer joked.

Relatives organize parade in St. Albert

In St. Albert on Tuesday afternoon, sirens and honking car horns rang out on Sunset Blvd. as relatives drove by Jean DeLeeuw’s home on her 100th birthday.

DeLeeuw sat in her driveway watching the spectacle as her grandchildren waved signs.

“Oh my gosh, I never expected all this, for heaven’s sakes,” she told CBC News.

Jean DeLeeuw waves from her driveway as her family members mark her centennial birthday with a parade. (Peter Evans/CBC)

Arlane Caruk, DeLeeuw’s niece, said she had originally imagined a small socially-distant celebration, but as word caught on among family members, the event evolved into a small parade.

“I can’t think of a better way to celebrate this lovely lady’s 100th birthday,” Caruk said.

The number of centenarians in Canada topped 10,000 for the first time in July, according to Statistics Canada.

Life expectancy has lengthened and the number of centenarians in Canada has tripled since 2001.

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