Dorscie Paterson proves life begins at 100

Dorscie Paterson, then aged 97, enjoying life. She celebrates her 100th birthday on Robert Burns Day. - Contributed photo
Dorscie Paterson, then aged 97, enjoying life. She celebrates her 100th birthday on Robert Burns Day.
— image credit: Contributed photo

Ten years ago my office phone rang, and a youthful voice said: “This is Dorscie Paterson speaking. We need some young people in our fishing club. We meet at the Cloverdale Legion. Could you give us some publicity?”

I agreed to ‘mock up’ a fishing photo at her home the following day – which dawned cold and grey with a relentless drizzle.

While Dorscie donned her fishing gear, I noted the easel with the painting in progress next to the fireplace. The mantel was laden with cards proclaiming, “Happy 90th birthday, Mother,” and so on.

Waving off my disbelief, her Scandinavian neighbour and fishing buddy arrived, and we adjourned to her fishing boat parked in the yard, next to the new ride-on lawnmower. The two fisher folk, with much hilarity, angled themselves, and their fishing rods, to give the photographic impression that were on a B.C. river.

I was freezing.

“Can I help you out, Dorscie?” asked her slightly younger pal.

“I got in by myself, I can get out by myself,” came the tart reply.

On Jan. 25 (Robert Burns Day), Dorscie celebrates her 100th birthday.

She still drives, does her own housework, volunteers twice each month at Langley Hospice, has been a Lady Lion for decades, and ‘does the greeting cards’ for the Langley Lions Club.

She believes the diet she has lived by all her life – plenty of beef, pork, fresh vegetables, and whatever oil is the cheapest. “Chicken is for sandwiches, “ she says firmly.  “And I eat bacon, take one thyroid pill a day, and can do five full push ups.”

Don’t expect her to slow down, or change now.

Descended from pioneering stock that rolled into the Ottawa Valley before there was a north-south border, Dorscie and her mother drove out to B.C. when she was three years old. I note a tinge of sadness in her voice as she recalls: “My father went via Saskatchewan to visit his brother, took sick and, because the roads were so bad in those days, didn’t get to hospital in time to save his life.”

As a teacher at Van Tech at Broadway and Nanaimo in the ‘70s, she informed students, “Life isn’t a bowl of cherries.” To prove it she took them on field trips to everywhere from Vancouver Art Gallery to Essendale, and sourced out jobs for them in fields she noticed they had an aptitude for.

Driving to a meeting one night, Dorscie informed me, “You girls are lucky, you know.”

As a new bride, she laid out the ground rules to her successful Vancouver-businessman husband.

“I told him I had no intention of following his mother’s example of having 11 children and being tied to the kitchen sink.” They had a son and daughter, and community service – particularly with the South Shaughnessy community centre, became an integral part of her life.

However, one evening he made the mistake of mentioning that the women in his family dressed to greet the men returning from work in the evening. He wondered why she didn’t do the same.

The following evening, he found Dorscie elegantly gowned, coiffed, and made up, seated in state in the living room waiting for him.

“Well, you look nice. Where are we going?” he asked.

“Nowhere,” she replied. “You said I should dress to greet you when you come home for dinner.”

“Oh. Well, what’s for dinner?” he asked.

“Nothing,” replied his wife. “It took me so long to get ready, I didn’t have time to cook.’

I believe they dined out that night. I have no doubt he got the message.

Clearly, Dorscie is passionate about the Langley Hospice Society, and the importance of palliative care.

She describes comforting a frightened terminally ill young man. The empathy clear in her voice, she says, “I told him not to worry. They’ll all be lined up waiting for you to welcome you home. ‘Here he comes’, they’ll, say, ‘here he comes.’”

“Do you really think so?” he asked.

“Yes. I do,” she reassured him.

Another man, angry at his situation refused to talk to anyone. Dorscie found out he had been a fisherman. “I’ll get him!” the former fisher said confidently.

From his doorway she ‘fished’.

“I hear you were a fisherman?” In spite of himself, he replied. Having caught his attention, step-by-step, she gradually made her way into his room…for a lengthy chat about something they both loved.

When she was ready to leave, he said, “Will you come back again?”

“I certainly will,” she assured him.

And, she did.

Closing our telephone interview, she slips in a quick plug for Second Story Treasures, the Langley Hospice store in Walnut Grove.

“The nice things people donate are carefully sorted out, and properly displayed – so is jewellery and china.”

“I won’t die of boredom!” says the determined daughter of one of the first two women on the North Vancouver Chamber of Commerce. “People don’t believe I’m a hundred!” she says.

What a surprise!

– Ursula Maxwell-Lewis is the founding editor and publisher of the Cloverdale Reporter.

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