B.C. woman who survived Spanish Flu turns 105

Helen Watson, posing for a photo for her 100th birthday, turned 105 on Saturday (Nov. 21). (File photo)Helen Watson, posing for a photo for her 100th birthday, turned 105 on Saturday (Nov. 21). (File photo)
Helen Watson’s family had this book made to commemorate her 100th birthday. Watson turned 105 on Nov. 21, 2020. (Aaron Hinks photo)Helen Watson’s family had this book made to commemorate her 100th birthday. Watson turned 105 on Nov. 21, 2020. (Aaron Hinks photo)

When Helen Watson’s birthday rolled around last Saturday (Nov. 21), she couldn’t party like she was 100 – as she did five years ago, when she actually turned 100 – but the South Surrey senior wasn’t complaining.

READ MORE: Milestone birthday ‘a whirl’ for South Surrey senior

“It was very nice, everybody was so good to me,” Watson told Peace Arch News Monday (Nov. 23) of her 105th birthday celebration.

“It was just fine the way it was.”

The COVID-19 pandemic firmly quashed any plans that may have otherwise been made to celebrate the occasion in the fashion it deserves.

Pandemic protocols months ago changed how family visits could take place for Watson, and earlier this month – after restrictions were ramped-up due to the ongoing surge in cases – the visits were halted altogether, in the name of safety.

“Nobody’s allowed in right now, and that’s OK with us,” Watson’s son, Larry, said last week. “I understand that they’re very strict there. I’m glad they’re doing that because it’s for the safety of everyone there.”

Larry said he and his wife had shifted how they visit some time ago, to standing at a safe distance outside his mom’s window and speaking to her over the phone. They could see and hear each other more clearly than through the Plexiglas screen that had to separate them inside, he explained, and “it seems like a better visit.”

The 79-year-old said it’s difficult to sum his mother’s life up in just a few lines. Words that describe her have long included artist, independent and feisty.

Now, the description also includes ‘survivor of two global pandemics,’ as Watson was three years old when the Spanish Flu struck in 1918.

“Her parents were affected by it, her father, he went deaf from it,” Larry said.

Larry said his mom is “very surprised… and maybe a little upset” about the current pandemic, “because she can’t see her family.”

“That’s the hard part for her, that she doesn’t get to see anybody.”

When Watson first joined the ranks of centenarian in 2015, she welcomed a PAN reporter into her home, sharing a snippet of her creative side and just a few of the countless memories and experiences she has had – from an early childhood in Saskatchewan, to seeing her first airplane, to meeting her husband while working at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, to travelling solo around the province and into the U.S. into her early nineties.

“I did everything,” she said at the time.

“She wasn’t scared to go out and do things,” her son said Monday.

The family marked Watson’s first 100 years by publishing a book of photos, and this year, made her a blanket to take the chill off. They’re looking forward to days when they can have a proper visit.

“Hopefully everything will be OK in six months or so and her family can get back in and see her.”



tholmes@peacearchnews.com
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

CoronavirusSeniorsSurrey

Just Posted

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Over 5K jabbed at Interior Health mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinics

The clinics have made stops in more than 40 communities since launching last week

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interior Health COVID-19 cases falling slower than the rest of B.C.

More than a third of provincial cases announced Thursday came from the Interior

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Second dose vaccinations accelerating throughout region: Interior Health

To date, more than 675,000 doses have been administered throughout the region

Okanagan Lake (File photo)
Thompson-Okanagan ready to welcome back tourists

The Thompson-Okanagan Tourism Association expects this summer to be a busy one

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

A blood drive in support of 1-year-old Rielynn Gormley of Agassiz is scheduled for Monday, June 28 at Tzeachten First Nation Community Hall in Chilliwack. Rielynn lives with type 3 von Willebrand disease, which makes it difficult for her to stop bleeding. (Screenshot/Canadian Blood Services)
Upcoming blood drive in honour of Fraser Valley toddler with rare blood condition

The Gormley family has organized a blood drive in Chilliwack on June 28

One Reconciliation Pole and two Welcome Figures were unveiled during a ceremony in honour of truth and reconciliation on National Peoples Indigenous Day at the Vancouver School District in Vancouver, B.C., on Friday, June 21, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Horgan marks Indigenous Peoples Day by urging recognition of systemic racism

National Indigenous Peoples Day has been marked in Canada since 1996

A man makes his way past signage to a mass COVID-19 vaccination centre at the University of Toronto’s Mississauga campus during the COVID-19 pandemic in Mississauga, Ont., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Canadians encouraged to see mRNA shots as interchangeable as more 2nd doses open up

Doctos urge people not to hesitate if offered Moderna after getting Pfizer for their first shot

Chief of Defence Staff Jonathan Vance sits in the front row during a news conference in Ottawa on June 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Defence committee rises without report on Vance allegations

Committee had been investigating the government’s handling of complaints against former defence chief

The Coquihalla Lakes washroom is getting upgrades. (Submitted)
Coquihalla to get upgrades to aging washrooms

The Ministry of Transportation is providing $1 million in funding to upgrade 3 rest areas

The Sacred Hearts church on PIB land burned Monday morning. (Theresa May Jack/Facebook)
Two churches on First Nation land in South Okanagan burn to the ground

Sacred Hearts church on Penticton Indian Band land was reduced to rubble

Tl’etinqox-lead ceremony at the site of the former St. Joseph’s Mission in Williams Lake, B.C., June 18, 2021. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
‘We are all one people’: Honouring residential school victims and survivors

Love, support and curiousity: Canadians urged to learn about residential schools and their impact

Indigenous rights and climate activists gathered outside Liberty Mutual’s office in Vancouver to pressure the insurance giant to stop covering Trans Mountain. (Photo by Andrew Larigakis)
Activists work to ensure Trans Mountain won’t get insurance

Global campaign urging insurance providers to stay away from Canadian pipeline project

Most Read