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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

River’s incredible story came to an end when he was finally caught in a live trap on Dec. 13, 2020, after spending 16 days of surviving on his own in a North Thompson Valley wilderness area. (James Akey photo)
Bringing River home for Christmas

Lost dog saved from B.C. wilderness by a community that cared

Interior Health update. File photo.
86 new COVID-19 cases, two more deaths in Interior Health

The new deaths are from Heritage Square, a long-term care facility in Vernon

A woman wearing a protective face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 walks past a mural in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, Dec. 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
115 new COVID-19 cases, no new deaths in Interior Health

There are now a total of 4,970 cases in the region

(Jill Hayward photo)
Barriere Elementary advises COVId-19 school exposure

On Wednesday, Jan. 13, Barriere Elementary School advised school families that a… Continue reading

Dr. Rhonda Nixon has been appointed new superintendent and CEO for the School District 73. (SD73 photo)
SD73 Board of Education announces new superintendent

A new superintendent and CEO has been hired for SD73. The Board… Continue reading

Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the press theatre at the B.C. legislature for an update on COVID-19, Jan. 7, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 spread steady with 509 new cases Friday

Hospitalized and critical care cases decline, nine deaths

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials say country will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon shared a handwritten note his son received on Jan. 13, 2021. (Ravi Kahlon/Twitter)
Proud dad moment: B.C. minister’s son, 10, receives handwritten note for act of kindness

North Delta MLA took to Twitter to share a letter his son received from a new kid at school

Lilly and Poppy, two cats owned by Kalmar Cat Hotel ownder Donna Goodenough, both have cerebellAr hypoplasia, a genetic neurological condition that affects their ability to control their muscles and bones. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell River Mirror
VIDEO: Wobbly Cats a riot of flailing legs and paws but bundles of love and joy to their owner

Woman urges others to not fear adopting cats with disabilities

A COVID-19 outbreak at Vernon's Heritage Square long-term care home has claimed seven people. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Two more COVID-19 deaths at Vernon care home

Heritage Square has now lost seven people due to the outbreak

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s top doctor says to avoid non-essential travel as B.C. explores legal options

Premier John Horgan says he is seeking legal advice on whether it can limit interprovincial travel

Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the crowd during the march on Washington, D.C., in August of 1963. Courtesy photo
Government reinforces importance of anti-racism act on Black Shirt Day

B.C. Ministers say education “a powerful tool” in the fight for equity and equality

Black Press media file
Port McNeill driver tells police he thought the pandemic meant no breathalyzers

Suspect facing criminal charges after breathalyzer readings in excess of 3.5 times the legal limit

Most Read