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

B.C. senior celebrates 109th birthday

Salmon Arm’s Lena Johnston 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 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 says 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 labour, Johnston also fondly remembers her 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.


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter


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

Just Posted

Needles killer frightened many in our town: BC author

Roy Bugera disrupted life in a quiet Vancouver Island village before moving to Arrow Lakes

Video: MP hears pot, pipeline and politics concerns

South Okanagan-West Kootenay MP hosts town hall forum in Penticton

Health Minister says coming changes will make difference in rural communities.

“As a government, Premier Horgan is committed to improving the ambulance service.”

Ottawa proposes restricted pot labels, packages

Packaging will include red stop sign with marijuana leaf and ‘THC’

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

Golden Knights win 4-1, remain undefeated against Canucks

Vegas gets points from 12 players in dominating effort versus Vancouver

Alberta budget plans for Trans Mountain expansion

Finance Minister Joe Ceci says expected revenues will be factored into budget forecasts

Proposed gun bill attacked by gun owners and shooting victims

The federal government tabled the bill today in order to tighten the sale and tracking of firearms

New anti-radicalization centre in the works for B.C.

Centre aims to help ‘vulnerable individuals on the path to radicalization’ before they turn to crime

B.C. bravery, public service honoured by Governor General Julie Payette

UVic basketball coach Kathryn Shields inducted into Order of Canada

Sea lion with rope wrapped around neck saved by Vancouver Aquarium

Steller sea lions are a species of special concern and some populations are endangered in parts of Alaska

Most Read