When Margaret North is asked about the secret to her long life, as she often is, the 104-year-old’s answer is a simple one: “I just keep breathing, in and out, and do it again,” she laughed.
The longtime – and popular – White Rock resident was born on Feb. 5, 1911, and in the past century or so has seen the end of two world wars, lived in Hawaii, raised a family, welcomed grandchildren and become a fixture in her community.
Last week, North celebrated her birthday surrounded by family and friends, and even received a visit from White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin to mark the milestone.
“It was marvelous,” she said, noting that she wanted to thank each person who attended and wish them all a Happy Valentine’s Day.
A veteran of the Second World War – where she served as a nurse – North said the real key to her longevity is a combination of luck and staying healthy and active.
“I take my wheels and go to Johnston Road, it’s only three short blocks, when the weather is good,” she said, pointing to her walker. “Age doesn’t have much to do with it, it’s your health.”
And, until recently, North was still active with lawn bowling, curling, carpet bowling and golf.
“I’m lucky, I don’t have any pain,” she said, noting that in all her years, she’s only had a headache twice – once when she was a child and again when she had the mumps en route to Scotland during the Second World War.
North’s longtime friend and roomate, Star Hannah, noted that for North, it’s all about balance.
“She always says ‘when you can rest, take it,’ she said.
Born in the Kootenays, North graduated as a nurse from VGH in 1933. During her time overseas, she was stationed in Scotland, England, North Africa and Italy.
Once the war had ended, North moved to Hawaii before moving back to B.C. to care for her ill mother.
In 1950, North married Gerald Jackson North, and the couple raised their daughter, Moira, and three stepsons, staying in the Interior until 1957, when she moved to White Rock, where she has lived in the same condo ever since.
She married again in 1992 to Malcom Mainwaring, who passed away six months later from pancreatic cancer.
Despite the loss of both her husbands, North is surrounded by friends – including her neighbours and fellow churchgoers at First United Church.
She can also be spotted at Kent Street Activity Centre on dance nights, noting it’s easy to dance because someone’s always “holding you up.”
Now, with her birthday behind her, her family and friends are already looking to next year’s celebration. Hannah and Moira are already getting the ball rolling on a special invite to North’s favourite author, John Grisham.
“She’s a huge fan,” Hannah said. “She is like the poster girl for (Grisham).”