Suffice to say, Edith Sutherland has had an interesting life.
The senior was hit by lightning twice as a child, competed in track-and-field at an Olympic level as a teenager – achieving a high-jump record that wouldn’t be broken for 25 years – and earned medals for marksmanship as a young woman.
She’s also an artist, has been married twice and has two great-great-grandchildren.
Just don’t ask her how many grandchildren and great-grandchildren she has.
“I don’t even try to count anymore,” Sutherland laughed during an interview last week, noting she and her second husband both had children of their own when they met, and those children have since had children.
“The last time I counted, it was 19,” she said.
Twenty-three family members were to join Sutherland today (Thursday) to mark yet another milestone in the South Surrey resident’s life: her 100th birthday.
The number is not a big deal, she told Peace Arch News – “but it’s a shock.”
“I can’t believe it,” Sutherland said. “It is, all of a sudden.”
And while those around her talked about her “big day” a lot leading up to it, for Sutherland, it was just another day.
Born and raised in Medicine Hat, Alta., the senior has lived on the Peninsula for about eight years; calling Whitecliff Retirement Community home for the past 2½ years, after finding independent living difficult following a slip in which she broke her left arm in two places.
She credits positive thinking and a lifestyle that includes a daily dose of fresh air, no matter the weather, to her good health.
“I’ve been always athletic and healthy,” she said.
Daughter Bonnie Goodwin said the mindset was firmly established in her and her siblings’ lives from childhood, and she credits her mother’s example with her own complete lack of aches and pains at age 76.
At 100, Sutherland is the last surviving sibling of six.
She met her first husband, Lloyd, at age 15. While he served in the war, she raised their three children single-handedly for seven years – a situation she said she simply took in stride.
“You just take it, life, whatever it gives you,” Sutherland said. “You don’t worry about it, you just do it.”
She noted that her first husband’s death at age 49 still has a veil of mystery to it – there was speculation at the time that it was connected to his role in organizing the first Canadian woodworkers union, an effort that took people away from the U.S. group.
Goodwin said an investigation at the time was inconclusive.
“They thought he had been killed because the room had been bugged,” she said. “It’s never been solved.”
Sutherland met her second husband, Jack, through a blind date. While she initially “didn’t want to bother,” she admits she was pleased she went through with it.
“It worked out nicely,” the senior said with a smile.
Sutherland said while her life has been one of “up and down, up and down,” she has always remained positive, and always encourages others to do the same.
“If something happens to someone I always say, ‘it’ll get better’,” she said.
“I don’t dwell on (negatives). I just go on to the next thing.”
She described the attention around her birthday as “nice, but embarrassing.”
“I say, ‘what big day?’” she said.