Former Ladysmith resident Helen Pellerin dances with Raymond Pellerin

Hard work key to Pellerin’s longevity

Centenarian-to-be Helen Pellerin danced late into the night with family and friends to celebrate her 100th year.

It’s a Saturday night, and the sky has finally gone dark.

There’s one woman on the dance floor who has had nearly every man as a partner, and she deserves them — it is her party after all.

It’s not until after 11 p.m. that the evening begins to calm, and the dancing ends.

“It’s taken me until I was 100 years old to dance with this many men in one night,” says Helen Pellerin “I’ve never had that many partners before.”

She has a smile that warms your heart and stories that could outlast the longest evening. Pellerin may be turning 100 in December, but that is a fact easily forgotten once a conversation begins.

Pellerin was born in Spirit River, Man., in 1913.

From there, her family moved to Cut Knife, Sask., where Pellerin stayed until 1935. It was there that she met and married her husband Oscar. While living on the family farm, Pellerin had to take her turn raising her younger siblings.

“I’m from a large family, but of course in those days, everybody had a large family — so we were in style,” says Pellerin, who has 17 brothers and sisters.

It was during the Second World War that Pellerin, her husband and their three children made the move out to the West Coast. Oscar worked at the shipyards in Vancouver until the war ended, then the family moved to Campbell River in 1945.

Only a year after moving to Campbell River, one of the largest earthquakes in the Island’s history hit— Campbell River and Courtney were hit the hardest, says Pellerin.

“The rumour was that they did test a bomb, that the Americans and the Canadians tested a bomb over our ocean, and it wasn’t that far from Campbell River, so the rumour was that had a lot to do with the earthquake,” says Pellerin.

It was not until 1948 that Pellerin and her family made the move to Ladysmith, where she lived until 2002.

Pellerin has lived through the Great Depression, the Second World War, 19 prime ministers and four monarchs, but her most memorable events are humbling ones. They’re the personal memories, the ones nobody else got to experience except for the family.

“Having children for one thing,” says Pellerin. “Educating them, and raising them. Also the farm. I loved the farm. I would go back to the farm, but when I do come back, I’ll be raising horses — I loved the farm.”

It’s hard to believe that not much has changed over 100 years, but hearing it from someone who lived through things read about in history books by many school children makes it that much easier.

“Oh my goodness, I don’t know,” says Pellerin. “The world is very much the same, I think. The climate has changed; I think the climate has changed quite a bit.”

When asked about computers, she says, “We can have them — I don’t like gadgets.”

Hard work. That is what Pellerin says is the key to her good health, and longevity.

“If you want to be healthy, start putting up plasterboard that is four feet by eight feet and a quarter-inch thick, and you get one end —a four-foot-10 lady with her husband at the other end, and you hold up your side. We built two homes in Ladysmith.”

Pellerin currently lives in Duncan, but she remembers her time in Ladysmith fondly.

“I still miss Ladysmith,” she says. “I mean, you meet a lot of people, everywhere you go, you make friend, and then you move. I take my hat off to people that have been in Ladysmith their whole lives.”