Lena Johnston, a resident of Salmon Arm’s Arbor Lodge, turns 109 on Tuesday, March 6. (Lachlan Labere/Salmon Arm Observer)

Salmon Arm’s Lena Johnston celebrates 109

Arbor Lodge resident looks back on adventure of arriving in the Shuswap

On March 6, Saskatchewan-born Lena Johnston celebrated her 109th birthday, becoming one of the region’s longest-lived residents.

Actually, the celebrating began over the weekend with a dinner out with family, friends, acquaintances and birthday cake. It will continue into this week, with a few more outings and recognition in the B.C. legislature from Shuswap MLA Greg Kyllo.

Asked if she made a 109th birthday wish, Johnston replied, “That everybody will be happy, happy and enjoy it. Because life is too short to be angry. You better be happy and accept what the future brings to you.”

Lena Johnston, now a resident of Salmon Arm’s Arbor Lodge, remembers well the day she stepped from a boxcar to begin a new life in the Shuswap.

On Aug. 6, 1937, Johnston, her late husband Johnny and son Roy arrived at the train station in Notch Hill, packed with their belongings, including various animals, packed inside a railway car.

“That was an adventure… We had furniture, we had a little bit of machinery, we had four horses, a cow and a calf, and this crate with the chickens that I had two turkeys…,” said Johnston. “When we got to B.C. we only ended up with one, and we had him for Christmas, our first Christmas in B.C.”

From a farming family of 14, Johnston, as the oldest child, learned the value of hard work, as her family farmed in Saskatchewan and Alberta. While her younger sister Ella helped in the house, Johnston was her father’s “right-hand man” on the farm, riding horses, milking cows and taking care of pigs. She also worked the threshing crew, in charge of feeding the fire that generated steam to run the machinery.

Johnston says life on the farm was a lot of hard work, which may have contributed to her health and longevity.

“My mother had a brother who lived to 102, so maybe that rubbed off on me. Who knows? That’s a mystery,” said Johnston.

Along with the days of farm labour, Johnston also fondly remembers her days of leisure and travels across Canada, through the U.S. and to South America.

“Did you ever come down a spiral staircase? I’ve come down two of them. One of them down east and one of them in the States somewhere,” said Johnston. “I’ve been across Canada to Nova Scotia and seen the reversing hill. And that beautiful Annapolis Valley, that’s a few of my travels. I’ve been through the Panama Canal and that took all day, and if you’ve ever seen the sun come up out of the water, that’s an amazing sight to see.”

These days Johnston enjoys doing puzzles – with help from her fellow Arbor Lodge residents, watching the news and visiting with family, including her grandson. The annual birthday celebrations are also a joy.

“I’ve had parties, I don’t know if there’s another party coming or not. That’s a surprise,” said Johnston.

-With files from Tracy Hughes.

Just Posted

‘Hero’ kid fighting cancer helping with B.C. Children’s Hospital fundraiser

Penticton’s Wills Hodgkinson helping raise funds for B.C. Children’s Hospital

Vees add another notch to the win column

The team beat the Surrey Eagles 4-1 in the Bauer BCHL Showcase on Sept. 20

City council passes tax exemptions without discussion

Permissive tax exemptions approved for 2019

50-site RV park proposed for Okanagan Falls

An applicant has requested the property area be rezoned to Commerical Tourist instead of Industrial

Penticton smartening up city website

First step is finding out what the community wants

Video: Candidates answer hard questions about supporting the arts

Penticton city council candidates gather to discuss arts and culture

Who’s running in Penticton’s election?

Candidates for the Penticton municipal and school board election

Horvat leads Canucks to 4-3 shootout victory over Kings

Vancouver dumps L.A. in NHL pre-season contest

Update: Search called off for missing plane between Edmonton and Chilliwack

Search efforts were concentrated along the Highway 5 corridor between Valemount and Kamloops

Why Whistler for ski jumping in 2026? Calgary proposal gets pushback

Calgary 2026 proposes re-using the 2010 ski jumping venue Whistler for that sport and nordic

VIDEO: Hundreds line highway as family brings home body of B.C. teen

Northern B.C. showed their support by lining Hwy 16 as Jessica Patrick’s body returned to Smithers.

Despite progress, threat of 232 tariffs dominates NAFTA negotiations

Any deal is seen to require congressional approval before Dec. 1 to survive new Mexican government

B.C. MP Todd Doherty receives award for saving man who collapsed on a plane

Conservative MP was flying from Vancouver to Prince George, B.C., in June last year

Alleged border jumper from Oregon facing 2 charges after police chase in B.C.

Colin Patrick Wilson charged with dangerous operation of motor vehicle, flight from a peace officer

Most Read