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Laughter key to longevity, says 95-year-old Sault woman

'When she laughs it comes from deep within': Mary Turpela enjoys coffee, tea, pulla and the people at the Finnish Resthome
Mary Turpela, Ontario Finnish Resthome Association resident with Heidi Schell, OFRA purchasing and marketing agent, Jan. 11, 2024.

At 95, Mary Turpela is still smiling and enjoying life.

Turpela, born and raised in the Sault by Finnish immigrant parents, is a resident of the Ontario Finnish Resthome Association’s Mauno Kaihla Koti (MKK), a nursing home nestled in OFRA's pleasant woodland area on North Street.

A resident of Mauno Kaihla Koti for the past few years, Turpela was involved with OFRA when it was still in its planning stages over 50 years ago.

“I’ve been there to support it in any way I could,” Turpela said.

She shared some memories of events in her life during a recent chat with SooToday.

“I remember when my husband and I got married. It almost didn’t happen because it was a snowy day. Then we had to cross the railroad tracks on Pim Street to get to the Zion Lutheran Church. We were ready to go across the tracks when the train came and we had to wait until that train got through before we could continue to the church.” 

“Then when we got to the church the doors were locked,” she laughed.    

A church member arrived with the keys and opened the building for the couple but Turpela humorously recalled that the minister arrived late.

Mary and her husband Olavi enjoyed a long life together and had one son who now lives in Calgary.

Olavi, now deceased, was also an OFRA resident who enjoyed playing the accordion for others in the long-term care home.

Mary overcame some health challenges earlier in her life, suffering from arthritis in her left hip as a young person.

“I was in Grade 7 when I was taken to hospital in Toronto. I went down there by train with my mother. I was there for a long time and I had surgery on my hip. It was very painful but after the operation, what a relief!” 

She lived a happy active lifestyle after the operation.

“I was able to enjoy my life again.”

She worked as an administrative assistant at the Arthur A. Crawley and Company accounting firm’s Sault office.

She eventually moved into OFRA and helped the organization's Ladies Auxiliary whose prime goal is to raise funds for the association.

“I like it very much. It’s my home. I’m very comfortable here. I like the staff very much. They’ve been very nice to me.”

“I like to take part in activities here. I like singing very, very much. We have a reminiscing group and I like that because my memory is quite good,” Turpela said, adding she likes being in the company of several fellow residents she knew in her earlier years.

She enjoys get-togethers at OFRA that include singing and enjoying coffee, tea and pulla as well as watching old Westerns on TV.

Turpela said that she misses not being able to get out nearly as much as she did when she was younger but still enjoys sitting outside the nursing home in the summer months and going on outings in the association’s bus with other OFRA residents and viewing fall leaves, Christmas lights and visits to Bellevue Park.

She said she enjoys a good steak and recently dined at The Mill Steakhouse.

Turpela also attends Lutheran church services held at OFRA.

The secret to her longevity?

“I like to laugh,” she said.

“She’s very high on life. She’s happy. When she laughs it comes from deep within,” said Heidi Schell, OFRA purchasing and marketing agent.

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Darren Taylor

About the Author: Darren Taylor

Darren Taylor is a news reporter and photographer in Sault Ste Marie. He regularly covers community events, political announcements and numerous board meetings. With a background in broadcast journalism, Darren has worked in the media since 1996.
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