Family members and friends from several communities across Ontario were present at the Senior Citizens Drop In Centre Sunday to celebrate Frances Grasley’s 100th birthday.
“I don’t feel 100. I had to keep telling myself all day yesterday ‘I’m 100 years old.’ I don’t feel it. I don’t act like it,” Frances chuckled, speaking to SooToday.
The celebration included many photos of Frances on the walls and dining tables at the centre, along with a greeting card with a lot of history attached to it.
“She was working with my aunt May, who was a nurse in Fort William, and we all became friends,” recalled friend Pat Hutton of Thunder Bay, who travelled to the Sault for Sunday’s celebration.
“Frances felt bad she had missed buying a Christmas card for my Mom, Beatrice, so she sent her a New Year’s card back in January 1949.”
Hutton's mother and Frances began a tradition of mailing the card back and forth to each other between Thunder Bay and Sault Ste. Marie for several New Year's, adding more and more written sentiments to the card over the years.
In 1965 the card went missing in the mail, but then resurfaced in 1970.
“Last year Frances sent it to me and said ‘I don’t think I’ll be sending it any more,’ but she wanted me to find someone else in my family to send it to, so now I’ve got a niece that wants to keep it,” Hutton said.
“This is what life is about, to remember people.”
“Frances remembers this card like it was yesterday, her mind is so sharp,” Hutton said.
Frances was born April 26, 1919 in Portlock, near Bruce Mines.
“It would take me a week to tell you my life story,” she told us with a big smile.
“My first job was housework. We grew up in the Depression in the 1930s. We never had doctors, and we had to sell a cow if we wanted flour or sugar because we had a farm with a lot of animals. It was terrible in the Depression, but we all lived.”
After living and working in Thunder Bay, Frances moved to the Sault in the 1950s to work as a registered nursing assistant at the former General Hospital site.
“I worked as a nurse until I was 63. I had to retire because I had something wrong with my leg, and on my last shift I walked the hallways with one shoe on, but I finished my shift,” Frances said.
Now a resident in an Ontario Finnish Resthome Association apartment, Frances still drives.
“I don’t want to give up my car. How would I get to Walmart?” she laughed.
“I go up there twice a week and walk around the store to get exercise. It keeps my heart and lungs going."
Longevity runs in her family, her mother having lived to be almost 106, her father living to be 95.
But clearly, her positive attitude and humour has helped her reach this milestone.
Frances never married and has no children or grandchildren, but has many nephews and nieces who care for her.
“I never found the perfect man,” she laughed.
“I’ve had a good life. I’ve lived on a farm, I’ve worked as a nurse and travelled all over the world and still do my own housework. I like to get out and hobnob with people. I know a lot of people in this city and I just love visiting. I love people.”
Any advice as to how to live a long life?
“I have just one prescription from the doctor. Eat properly, eat your vegetables and don’t take doctors pills,” Frances laughed.