For 100 years, Kay Rozzano has called Ladysmith home. She was born in Ladysmith on May 27, 1920, and has lived in town her entire life.
Rozzano said she’s been looking forward to this birthday ‘for 100 years’. She never anticipated it would occur in the middle of a pandemic. Every year Rozzano has lived at Oyster Harbour long-term care facility, she’s been treated to a birthday party with her friends and family. COVID-19 made that event impossible, so the staff at Oyster Harbour planned a special surprise for Rozzano.
On May 27, 2020 outside her home of the Oyster Harbour, Rozzano was honoured with a birthday parade. Dozens of cars drove by honking their horns, with drivers and passengers wishing Rozzano a happy 100th birthday. Father Mel from the nearby St. Mary’s Church – which Rozzano has attended for her entire life – gave Rozzano a birthday blessing amid a socially distanced crowd of Rozzano’s friends, and fellow church members. Father Mel led the gathering in the singing of “Amazing Grace”, and “Happy Birthday”.
“Thank you to one and all,” Rozzano said. “I’m overwhelmed by everyone’s kindness.”
In an interview with the Chronicle, Rozzano recalled her life growing up in Ladysmith. She said she still loves Ladysmith in 2020, even though things are quite different.
“Of course, in those days cars were a big deal. Not everybody had a car – we didn’t have a car – my dad drove the locomotive engine from Extension to Ladysmith,” she said.
When Rozzano was a teenager, her main activity was riding her bike around town with her friends. They would cycle all around Ladysmith, and even head as far as Chemainus and Nanaimo.
“I biked everywhere,” she said. “We would bike to Nanaimo, then we would bowl three games of bowling, and then we would bike home again.”
Swimming was a big part of Rozzano’s youth too. In her day, nobody went to Transfer Beach, instead they swam by the waters around what is now the Ladysmith Community Marina. Rozzano and her friends also spent many summer days swimming in the Nanaimo River.
Rozzano was a regular attendee of dances at the Eagles Hall, and Aggie Hall. She can’t pick a favourite show because so many different great bands came to Ladysmith.
“I used to like when the high school kids came out for dances. Sometimes there were no buses, so the kids had to stay over night in Ladysmith,” Rozzano said.
She held many jobs in her time living in Ladysmith. Rozzano’s first job was at the Ladysmith Post Office on First Avenue. She also worked at the Ladysmith Laundry, and worked as a telephone operator. Rozzano began volunteering with Ladysmith Health Care Auxiliary in the 1980s, and receiving a life time membership award from the Auxiliary for her service with the organization.
Rozzano lived through the Great Depression and the Second World War in Ladysmith. She recalls how the community banded together to make it through those tough times.
“My dad always had vegetable gardens, and he never fished. So, he would give the fishermen vegetables, and they would give him oyster, and fish,” Rozzano said. “Everybody always helped everybody.”
Rozzano said she’s very happy that even after 100 years, Ladysmith is still known as a kind and caring community.