Spirits were high and the amazing Nelly Goodwin was in a great mood as more than 200 people turned out at Qualicum Beach Civic Centre recently as part of The Parksville Golden Oldies Sports Association’s (PGOSA) 20th anniversary celebration.
There were booths and draws and plenty of food; PGOSA president Brian Ball had set up a rolling loop of photos of moments past and present, and the room had a great energy.
“She’s the shine on the apple,” Ball smiled from his seat next to Nelly (see photo page A3), who at 102 and a delight to be around, still loves to laugh.
Born Ellen Beatrice Godwin, in Edmonton, Oct. 14, 1911, ‘Nelly’ spent WW1 in Yorkshire England with her mother and aunts while her dad fought in Europe. The family returned to Edmonton where she spent her life until she moved to Oceanside in 2006 with her daughter, Gerri.
Nelly the story goes, was always active in sports and loved to compete; speed skating, tennis, swimming, golf and hiking a few of her favourites. When not participating, she volunteered her time as an instructor for winter sports and along the way passed on her expertise and passion to thousands of students.
Nelly downhill skied until she was 86 “when she figured her knees would lose their girlish shape if she didn’t stop.”
She was however, first and foremost a musician, said her daughter.
“Today she would have been declared a prodigy but way back then it was considered an amusing talent and she was allowed to take lessons.”
Over the years, Nelly also learned to play the ukulele, guitar, flute and the clarinet.
And if they had reality shows back then, The Life of Nell would have been a hit.
She was the second woman in Alberta to obtain a motorcycle licence, which she used to roar around Edmonton on her single cylinder Harley with her husband Don.
Determined to live her life as best as she can, she now resides at Halliday House in Parksville. Her extensive family travel frequently to the Island to visit with her, “and she is still able to regale them with her wicked sense of humour.”
Nelly sang and played piano at Halliday House up to four years ago when she turned 98.
“She loves to get out in the sun, loves to feel the wind in her face,” said Gerri.
It’s clear Nelly loves to laugh, and that she did with gusto when a laminated copy of a photo and story of her and her Harley that ran in the Edmonton Journal June 30, 1976, was put in her hands and she was able to hold it close and see what it was.
“That’s me,” she laughed. “I remember that motorcycle.”
She’s in a wheelchair now, but it’s only in the last seven months or so that she lost her ability to walk. “And she fully believes she’s going to walk again.”
Her birthday was on Oct. 14 and yes, they made a big deal of it at Halliday House where she is the oldest resident. She is also the oldest member of PGOSA.
Nelly has lost most of her hearing and she only has a bit of sight out of her right eye. She has a hard time speaking, but she is still able to interact, still able to communicate thanks in part to a felt pen and board.
“Nell’s an amazing person. Nelly is a light in the midst of darkness. She lights up the whole place,” said Nelly’s personal caregiver of six years, Gayla Strong.
“I don’t know what people are saying and I can’t see, it’s frustrating as heck, I see people are interested, and I do appreciate the attention,” she said.
ALSO HONOURED on the day was ‘PAGOSA Pete’, Qualicum Beach’s Peter Kucey, one of the founding members and key players for PGOSA.
Both Oceanside Mayors were on hand as the town of Qualicum Beach and the City of Parksville honoured Kucey with a plaque and the Town of QB a coffee table book commemorating Qualicum Beach Memorial Golf Club’s 100th anniversary”because he’s donated so much of his time to PGOSA starting back in ‘93.”
“He’s one of the founding fathers, he was instrumental in getting PGOSA off the ground and he’s been the president of PGOSA several times over,” said Ball. “He’s the one that’s been the glue, and at (82 years old) he’s still finding ways to make sure he’s intrinsically involved. He’s the go-to guy if you have a problem.”
Kucey, 82, has participated in the B.C. Seniors Games numerous times and won loads of medals, but it’s the countless hours he’s put in promoting PGOSA and an active life style that sets him apart.
“It was a total surprise to me (but) it’s all the members, it’s all our conveners, they’re the ones that make it all tick. Without them we wouldn’t be here,” said the always humble Kucey.
“Numbers wise, I believe we are a one-off across Canada because of our size. Most centres, city’s, towns, across Canada, the senior population represents 8, 10 per cent of the population, while here in Parksville/Qualicum we’re representing 35 – 40 percent of the population, and as such because we have a sporting group called PGOSA, it’s a driver of sports for seniors 55 and up, and I’m fairly certain we’re quite unique to Canada in that lifestyle and having the kind of sports activities for seniors that we do.”
— Check out Thursday’s NEWS for more on seniors staying active.