Joan Martin has seen a thing or two in life.
She was born during the First World War and has seen the advent of the pop-up toaster, the invention of insulin by Sir Frederick Grant Banting, the birth of the mechanical television – a precursor to modern television – and the discovery of penicillin.
And on Sept. 12, the super-centenarian turned 107-years-old.
Martin, nee Gould, was born in Esquimalt on Vancouver Island in 1915.
Her mother died when she was just a girl of 10. Her father lived to an average age, she said.
“I really don’t know where it comes from,” she said of her longevity, adding that it must be farther down the family tree.
Martin has always lived by the ocean.
“I’m used to living by the sea,” she said, recalling the experience fondly. She was a little girl – about five-or six-years-old – when she first moved to James Island, a little more than two kilometres off the coast of Vancouver Island.
“And I vividly remember the day we arrived there. We got off the load boat and up the wharf, it was raining. I had an umbrella I got for Christmas and here I went up the wharf.”
She remembers playing hopscotch, jacks, hide and seek, and Run Sheep Run, with the rest of the children on the island. She loved playing on the beach, however, Martin said she can’t swim, not very well.
“No, I go to the bottom,” she joked, adding that ocean water is simply too cold.
“Some people can stand it and some can’t. And I can’t,” she laughed.
Martin would attend St. Joseph’s School of Nursing in Victoria, graduating after three years. She then worked for a couple of years until she got married to her childhood friend, John Leslie Martin, in 1939. They were married for more than 60 years, until he passed away in 2001.
One of the biggest thrills of Martin’s life was her honeymoon – a trip to San Francisco by car. There was a big fair on at the time and the United States Air Force were showing off a new plane, just before the start of the Second World War, that her husband, an aircraft mechanic in the Royal Canadian Air Force, had to see.
“There was a new plane out and that was the highlight. We had to see that plane. We spent hours over there,” she reminisced. “It was a thrill to go to that, and to see San Francisco.”
During the war, her husband was station in Fort St. John along the northwest staging route when the Americans started sending the planes to China, when, as Martin puts it, “Japan was being a nuisance.”
Martin stayed back to take care of her two daughters, Wendy and Pamela, but was approached by a doctor to run an Air Raid Post, a first aid station, in Victoria, in case there was a bombing.
“Fortunately we didn’t have any need for it,” she said.
The Martins would have one other child, a son named Paul, and would return to James Island to raise them. In 1961 they moved to Sidney and stayed there for 30 years. Martin worked at a small Seventh Day Adventist Hospital until it closed in 1976 and then she worked at the acute care department at the Saanich Peninsula Hospital before being offered a position as an operating room supervisor, where she remained until she retired in 1978.
The Martins were travellers, visiting England, Scotland, Israel, India, and Sri Lanka. On their 50th wedding anniversary, their children sent them on a cruise to Alaska.
When her husband passed away, Martin moved to Maple Ridge.
For her 90th birthday, she went with her daughter Wendy on a cruise to Hawaii, and following that on another cruise with the family to Alaska.
Out of all the biggest inventions in her lifetime, Martin remembers the automatic washing machine her husband bought her, as revolutionary to her life.
“It was a Westinghouse,” she said, a front loading machine where you weighed your clothes on the door before you put them in.
“So it was wonderful,” she chuckled.
Martin is still very active at Greystone Manor, the seniors home where she resides. She attends all the recreation activities, she manages the library with her daughter Wendy where she restocks the books, and attends the knitting circle every Friday.
“I’ve lived a very plain life, you might say. I didn’t go to parties very much. I lived a plain, sedate, shall we say, life. Plain food, good food,” she said, adding that tripe was a regular part of her diet.
Martin’s advise is to enjoy life and keep busy.
“Do things in moderation,” she advised.
If Martin could visit one more place again, she would love to go to the ocean. But, sadly, she can no longer take long car rides.
Director of recreation and wellness Michele White would like to get Martin virtual reality goggles so she can at least have the feeling of being by the ocean again, in the comfort of her home.
If anyone can help her make Martin’s wish come true contact White at Greystone Manor Retirement Residence at 604-467-2808.
Currently the oldest living person in the world, as recorded by the Guinness Book of World Records in April this year, is Lucile Randon, who is 118 years and counting.
The oldest living person in Canada is Shige Mineshiba, who was born in Japan and now lives in Vancouver. She is 114 years and counting.
The longest-living Canadian was Marie-Louise Meilleur, who died in 1998 at age 117.
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