Community

Centenarian reflects on war, travels and family

Margaret Mainwaring celebrates her 100th birthday with balloons. - Doug Shanks photo
Margaret Mainwaring celebrates her 100th birthday with balloons.
— image credit: Doug Shanks photo

Margaret Mainwaring has always led an active life, and turning 100 hasn’t changed that.

After retiring from a career that took her to three continents and more than a dozen different cities, she remained outgoing in retirement, taking up golf, curling and lawn bowling. Now a centenarian, Mainwaring still involves herself in activities by participating in a local writing group and attending monthly seniors’ dinner/dances.

The numerous connections she has made through such pursuits was evident earlier this month, when more than 200 people attended her 100th birthday Feb. 5 at Mann Park Lawn Bowling Club, which she has been a member of for more than 20 years.

Despite all her experiences, Mainwaring maintains she is just an ordinary person willing to test her abilities.

“I never did anything outstanding. I never won a golf game… well, I might have had a few lucky shots,” she said. “I wasn’t a prized athlete. I wasn’t an accomplished activist. I just enjoyed trying.”

Born in Toronto as one of three children, Mainwaring grew up on a ranch 12 miles out of Fort Steele, B.C., and graduated high school in Cranbrook.

In deciding to pursue nursing, she opted for Vancouver General Hospital School of Nursing over the training facility in Cranbrook, which her mother encouraged her to attend.

“I was so bored of the same town, I wanted to get away.”

Mainwaring started her career in the heart of the depression, taking jobs in hospitals in Kelowna and Vancouver Island after earning her licence.

After joining the war effort in the early ’40s, she was convoyed to England from Halifax by ship. She still recalls the danger of the waters, and how planes and smaller ships escorted them on the seven-day journey.

“The German U-boats were just having a heyday out there,” she said. “We saw British ships coming in with their sides blown out.”

Mainwaring served in various countries throughout the war, working in England, North Africa, Italy and Holland, which was liberated during her stay.

“They had a party that lasted two days.”

After the war, Mainwaring followed her desire to go to Hawaii, working there for two years, before taking a job in Seattle to be closer to family.

When she decided to return to B.C., she moved to the Cariboo, where she met her first husband, Gerry, and married in 1950.

Mainwaring raised daughter Moira and three stepsons, staying in the Interior until 1957, when she moved to the Lower Mainland.

Since settling in White Rock 35 years ago – she still lives in the same condo – she remarried in 1992 to Malcom Mainwaring, who died six months later from pancreatic cancer.

But she has also experienced an abundance of life over the years, welcoming a grandson and a number of step-grandchildren into the world.

Additionally, she has been “lucky” in her health. Mainwaring – who Moira describes as courageous, independent and compassionate – was still lawn bowling last summer, and curled up to three years ago.

Although she doesn’t have tips to offer for longevity, she said there are values she considers important in life, such as loving your neighbour as yourself.

“Until we get so we treat all people as equals, we’re not going to be any better civilized than we are now.”

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