Sault Ste. Marie’s Evelyn Richards is celebrating her 100th birthday on Jan. 6.
“I’ve had a good, happy life,” Richards told SooToday, seated in the dining room of her west end home on Thursday.
Evelyn and her husband Raymond married in 1942, raised four children and were well-known in the Sault and throughout northern Ontario as country singers and musicians, performing as a duo and as members of a group known as The Jolly Players over the decades.
The group was inducted into the Great Northern Opry Hall of Fame.
Richards was also a member of The Sault Rising Stars, a group of seniors which performs skits for other seniors, addressing important issues, such as avoiding being scammed and combating elder abuse.
Evelyn and Raymond spent a great deal of time at their family cottage at Horseshoe Bay - that Raymond built - beginning in 1950.
“My husband and I had a dune buggy, skidoos, our own boat,” Richards said.
The Richards family still owns the cottage, having visited it three weeks ago, she added.
Richards also has a love of photography and film.
She filmed Queen Elizabeth II with an 8 millimetre movie camera when the monarch visited Sault Ste. Marie in 1959.
“I was sad when she died because she was a nice lady. When she came to the Sault years ago she was sitting in a car and as she went by she waved. She looked right at me,” Richards said.
Husband Raymond - who worked as a welder and hoisting engineer before retiring - died in 2016.
“My husband and I were very, very happy for many years,” Richards said.
“I’ve always got the radio on in the house,” Richards said, still a country music lover who plays guitar and sings.
“She’s been an inspiration to me in most of the things that I’ve done. We’re fortunate to have someone in our family reach 100,” said Evelyn’s son Wayne, a now-retired Ministry of Natural Resources research scientist.
“The four of us - myself, my sister and my brothers - are all doing what we can do to keep her in this house as long as she can,” Wayne said.
She is also proud of her Metis background.
Richards came from humble beginnings, raised in the Gore Street area.
She began cleaning houses at the age of 15 to make money.
“I worked whenever I could. Years ago people didn’t just hand you money. I washed floors, washed windows and it didn’t hurt me,” Richards said.
“You got a little treat from neighbours once in a while and it made you feel good.”
In later years, she worked at stores such as Woolco and Kmart.
“I don’t really have any bad memories,” said Richards, a grandmother of nine who still drove her vehicle as recently as five years ago.
She is still mobile and able to move around her home.
“I listen to country music and don’t very often watch TV except if there’s a good old movie on.”
A small family gathering is planned for Richards’ 100th birthday.
As she reflects on her life and observes the continuation of wars and violence around the world, Richards said “everybody's fighting over something.”
She also says society seems much more detached.
“We don’t stand and talk to each other anymore. Years ago we’d go outside in the morning and say ‘hi neighbour.’ Now all the doors are shut and nobody’s talking to anybody. I don’t understand that.”
Because of that, Richards said her advice for younger people is to make a lot of friends and to not drift apart, stating that “life is a song, love is the music.”