South Surrey woman turns 100

Helen Bateman of South Surrey is 100. - Dan Ferguson photo
Helen Bateman of South Surrey is 100.
— image credit: Dan Ferguson photo

When she was 10, Helen Bateman and her family made a narrow escape from the Great Fire of 1922, the out-of-control Northern Ontario forest conflagration considered one of the 10 worst natural disasters in Canadian history.

On Sunday, 90 years later, the memory was still vivid for Bateman, who recalled fleeing the blaze with her parents as it roared through her home town of Haileybury in a matter of hours, destroyed more than 90 per cent of the buildings, killing 11 people and leaving thousands homeless.

"It destroyed our house," she said.

Some residents were forced to take refuge in the cold waters of Lake Timiskaming and cover themselves with wet blankets.

The mother of two,  grandmother of five and great-grandmother of one was surrounded by family and friends as she reminisced at her 100th birthday party.

Bateman described how she met her husband James Henry at Queen's University while she was enrolled in a four-year arts programs.

He became a surgeon and she managed his office for him.

The couple moved out out to the West Coast about 30 years ago.

She talked about her love of travel, noting that she has flown around the world several times.

"It's been an interesting life," she said.

Bateman is the second member of her family to turn 100.

Her older brother is now 102.


(Note: an earlier version of this story contained incorrect information about the number of Bateman grand- and great-grandchildren)

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