Qualicum Beach’s Pauline Nodwell has much to be thankful for.
The Saskatchewan-born woman has recently entered the realm of centenarians — people who have lived to see their 100th birthday. She’s feeling pretty good about it, too.
“I am as healthy as can be,” said Nodwell.
How healthy? Healthy enough to make 140 servings of borscht to feed all the people that came through her open house in Qualicum Beach during the days leading up to her special birthday.
Her age and health are far from the only remarkable things about her. Nodwell’s bright, optimistic philosophy and deep love of life and people would be enough to set her apart at any age.
“I don’t know what tomorrow might bring, but today was so wonderful that I just want to do it again,” said Nodwell.
She says she owes much of that happiness to the people that surround her.
“I don’t know how I could live without my family and my friends and my neighbours. I love people and they’re very much a part of my life. Part of my happy, satisfied life,” said Nodwell.
Together with her daughter Clair Brown, the two collected 100 pieces of wisdom — one for every year of her life. She read a favourite out loud, one that seems to sum up the optimism with which she approaches life.
“If you’ve had a good life until now, then I guess you’ll have a good life from here on in, too,” said Nodwell.
She’s well-known in her neighbourhood, where she often walks around the block, stopping to talk to neighbours and passerby. She also makes a mean raspberry jelly, using berries from her garden, that she says is her calling card. The only problem is, she could never make enough.
Through those personal connections with neighbours, the gifts of her attention and love have been returned.
Neighbours help her shovel her driveway, and one neighbour, Willy, often knocks on her door with fresh caught salmon and fish.
“That’s my highlight for the day. Meeting people and chatting with them. I’m a people person – I love to hear all about their lives and what they’re like, and what they like, and what they don’t like,” said Nodwell.
That probably explains how she was able to throw a 100th birthday party so large that she had to pare down the guest list to only 145 attendees.
Relatives flew in from as far as Norway, England and Halifax to be with her on her special day.
Of all the people in her life, Nodwell says that her four children have been the biggest blessing.
“I feel the important part in life is your children. That you should have children. Because you kind of live through your children, and they’re there for you. If you’ve raised them to be helpful and thoughtful of others, then they’re helpful and thoughtful to you,” said Nodwell.
Indeed, her four children, nine grandchildren and eleven great-grandchildren have been huge support systems for her over the years.
Brown looks after her finances, and her granddaughter Denene Derksen lives with her and takes care of the house. Her husband, Jack Nodwell, has passed away, but she remembers him with great fondness as one of the best men you could ever meet. The two built a life together in Calgary before moving to Qualicum Beach to retire.
Of course, human society has changed massively over the past 100 years. Some people choose to look at change with cynicism and distrust — but Nodwell, as you may have guessed, takes a different view.
Like many people who grew up in the time before technology had such a widespread grip on society, she made do with what she had.
“Living on the homestead, there’s no telephones, there’s no TVs, there’s no radios or nothing and I’m having a wonderful time. That’s all I knew! And I learned to enjoy what I had around me at that time,” said Nodwell.
But that doesn’t mean she’s judgmental about the way people interact with their smartphones and devices.
“I just think any kind of a thing that seems to help them along with their lives is a wonderful thing. I don’t have to have it, or try to understand it, because I’m doing fine without it. But I think it’s wonderful, the advances in the country,” said Nodwell.
Asked if human nature has changed, she paused.
“I think certainly the way they look at things has changed. But I think it’s very important not to judge people by the way they have chosen to do things. Or to like or dislike. That’s for them,” said Nodwell.
“It would be terrible if everybody thought like I do. It wouldn’t be an interesting world at all, would it?”
Wherever the conversation went with Nodwell, it always came back to one core message.
“I think the whole thing is love people and they will love you. It’s always a two-way street, isn’t it… and if you’ve got that, what more do you want?”