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Wine and chocolate have helped resident reach age 105

Resident Betty Francis was born on Nov. 14, 1915, during a time when the First World War was 16 months old
Francis, Betty 105
Resident Betty Francis turns 105 years old on Nov. 14. Here she poses for a picture with a birthday bear at Chateau St. Michael. Photo by Jason G. Antonio

Wine and chocolate are two treats in which Betty Francis likes to indulge and are also likely two reasons she has reached 105 years old.

“I like wine sometimes. On my last birthday, there was a party. They brought me wine and treats (cake) and friends came,” the resident of Chateau St. Michael said recently, adding she has been munching on Bounty coconut bars lately. “I like it because it’s not hard (to eat).”

Francis was born on Nov. 14, 1915, during a time when the First World War was 16 months old and Canadian soldiers had reached the front lines that spring. Besides Francis, other notable individuals also born that year included Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, Ingrid Bergman and David Rockefeller.

Society was much different in the 19-teens and 1920s, Francis recalled. One thing that sticks out is how much work was done on paper, compared to today, where computers rule the roost.

Her family moved from Alberta to Vancouver, British Columbia when she was young. She stayed on the West Coast until she graduated high school at age 16 before her family moved to Saskatchewan for work.

“I’m quite pleased with (moving here),” she said.

Francis had to wait to find a job since she was still young; her first job was as a secretary for a real estate firm. That would be a role she took on many times during her adult life in Moose Jaw.

She was married twice, although she never had any children. With some melancholy, Francis admitted that she wished she did have kids of her own.

Francis travelled extensively during her life. She visited England and Europe several times, while she took trips to the United States since her family lived close to the border. Chuckling, she said when she was younger, she would go see her grandma in Bellingham, Oregon, whenever her mother wanted to get rid of her.

Francis arrived at Chateau St. Michael in March 2017 and has been mostly independent since. She can move freely in her wheelchair, takes part in Remembrance Day ceremonies, goes outside for walks and attends gatherings that feature live and recorded music from the 1930s to ’60s.

“I don’t do a heckuva lot on my own,” she said.

As for her secret to a long life, Francis said she knew when to keep her mouth shut.

“Don’t yap too much,” she chuckled.

One life lesson people should understand is the need to learn from their mistakes, added Francis. Sometimes people need to see the results of their decisions and realize those choices can’t be changed.

Francis thought the birthday party that staff at the care home planned to throw for her on Nov. 14 was a little bit much since — to her — she felt it was happening again so soon. However, she did enjoy the staff playing a musical bear that sang Happy Birthday.

“It’s cute,” she added. “It’s a different idea.”