Dorothy Chura, a resident at Vernon’s Heritage Square long-term care facility, celebrates her 105th birthday March 16, 2021. She’s believed to be B.C.’s oldest COVID-19 survivor. (Contributed)

Dorothy Chura, a resident at Vernon’s Heritage Square long-term care facility, celebrates her 105th birthday March 16, 2021. She’s believed to be B.C.’s oldest COVID-19 survivor. (Contributed)

B.C.’s oldest COVID-19 survivor celebrating 105th birthday

Vernon’s Dorothy Chura has now officially survived two global pandemics

Throughout her long life, Vernon’s Dorothy Chura has fought many battles, and overcome countless obstacles. Her most recent victory: a fight against COVID-19.

At 105, she is believed to be the oldest person to survive the virus in B.C.

It’s for this reason her upcoming 105th birthday will serve as an extra-special milestone.

The Heritage Square resident will celebrate her birthday on March 16, 2021. Born in Witko, Sask. in 1916, the beginning of Chura’s story predates her move to Vernon by nearly a century.

Given that she’s lived through multiple World Wars and other global catastrophes — as well as personal health scares and poverty — her survival of the novel coronavirus is almost unsurprising.

Almost, if not for the fact that U.S. Centers for Disease Control data suggests people aged 85 years and up have a fatality rate 7,900 times higher than people from ages five to 17 — and the risk is much higher among centenarians.

Seventy people, 47 residents and 23 staff tested positive and nine people died following an outbreak at Heritage Square. Although Chura was also infected, she fought through. The outbreak, which was announced in late December, was declared over mid-February.

“She has always been determined to overcome the challenges of her life even as she aged, and she has,” Dorothy’s daughter, Diane, told the Morning Star.

Chura’s first major life alteration came at the age of five when her mother passed away,

Her father moved to the United States to re-marry. Chura was placed in eight different foster homes before landing in a family whose patriarch would not allow her to go to school, instead sending her to work the farm.

Such was life in the Prairies for an orphaned girl, until she got married on Aug. 6, 1938 to Peter (Pat) Chura at the age of 21.

As the oldest of five children Peter had been forced to leave medical school to help his mother and siblings, when his own father suddenly died. He later became a teacher — it was a cheaper and easier profession to get into then.

Following this, the young couple moved around Saskatchewan. Dorothy took part in local theatre activities, and also took the spotlight.

“Reportedly she was a gifted actress,” her daughter says.

When they arrived in Toronto in 1942, Dorothy proved herself an “exceptional seamstress” and talented hair stylist, but with her husband’s purchase of confectionery and lunch restaurant, she reinvented herself in the city as a businesswoman. And she was good at that, too.

“It was hard work with long hours, but they made it thrive,” Diane said. “Dorothy proved to be a natural businesswoman and through her contacts, wheeling, dealing, and great resourcefulness managed always to procure items no other store could find.”

One lunch confectionery became two, but in the interest of sparing themselves from extremely long hours, they sold the business — only to go the Empire route.

The Churas moved to Hamilton, Ont. and bought the Empire Motel. They had a daughter in 1949, who came to them between two hotel purchases after they relocated to Brantford and bought The Strand, a prohibition-era hotel, which suffered damage from a major fire that levelled several businesses on the block. Pat returned to teaching.

READ MORE: COVID vaccination party at Armstrong retirement community

READ MORE: COVID-19 vaccine protects health staff, seniors best after three weeks

The couple had been married almost 50 years when in the late 1980s Pat became sick. An earlier diagnosis of arthritis later manifested itself as prostate cancer.

“Dorothy nursed him lovingly at home for as long as she was able, but the disease was too far progressed.” Pat died at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Brantford in 1988.

“The loss of her life partner was traumatic,” her daughter said. “Still, Dorothy carried on valiantly for many years in Brantford after he passed, continuing to be an active member of her church community in the company of her friends of so many years and created a new life for herself.”

In 2007 Dorothy moved to Vernon to be nearer to Diane and son-in-law Wayne Wilson. But the strain and magnitude of the change took its toll, and she suffered a heart attack.

“However, Dorothy has always been a remarkable survivor, and triumphed in true prairie fashion,” her daughter said.

Chura stayed spry as a centenarian. At 100 years old she maintained her flower pots, bowled weekly, took long walks, did leg lifts daily to maintain her figure and avidly read the papers. Diane says she still dressed fashionably, got her hair done every Saturday and looked younger than her age. She watched the news on TV to stay informed about a world her generation had long since passed on to the next.

She moved into Heritage Square in Vernon — which she has come to love — after breaking her hip in 2019, and a day before her 104th birthday the retirement residence went into full COVID-19 lockdown.

Pandemics are said to be once-in-a-lifetime experiences. While Chura likely doesn’t remember the Spanish Flu of 1918 having been just two years old at the time, she’s one of few to live through multiple global outbreaks.

That’s worthy of a toast come March 16th.


Brendan Shykora
Reporter, Vernon Morning Star
Email me at Brendan.Shykora@vernonmorningstar.com
Follow us: Facebook | Twitter

CoronavirusSeniors

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Amiri is currently working as a parliamentary intern. (Christian Diotte - Special to The News)
Maple Ridge woman earns scholarship to study law in Montreal

Somaya Amiri, 23, awarded McCall MacBain scholarship at McGill University

Bat Packs are the newest addition to the FVRL Playground, and have everything you need to learn more about bats, and track them in your neighbourhood. (FVRL image)
Bat Packs at Fraser Valley libraries come with echometer to track bats

Packs are the newest part of the FVRL Playground inventory

Online guide expected to make applying for building permits easier. (The News files)
City of Maple Ridge launches new building permit application tool

Users can print or save their results for easy access

Dogs big and small on the patio at Witchcraft Beer Market and Bistro. (City of Maple Ridge/Youtube)
VIDEO: Maple Ridge businesses embrace new dog friendly pilot project

Pets can come onto a patio at a restaurant or enter participating retail spaces

A photo submitted to municipal staff on April 6 showing a beaver dam southwest of Chester Street. The drainage issues on the south side of the highway are the responsibility of CP Rail, as they own the property. Photo courtesy of the District of Mission.
Delegation of Silverdale farmers say land continually floods along Lougheed Highway

Beaver dams, siltation, fallen trees, bad ditching is sinking crops next to recently widened highway

Surrey RCMP are seeking the public's help to locate three puppies stolen from a South Surrey home on April 10. (Surrey RCMP photos)
UPDATE: 1 of 3 puppies stolen from South Surrey returned to owner

American Bulldog puppy recovered after being sold at Mission car show

(Government of Canada)
Liberal MP caught stark naked during House of Commons video conference

William Amos, in Quebec, appeared on the screens of his fellow members of Parliament completely naked

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Feb. 1, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps to 1,168 Wednesday, nearly 400 in hospital

Now 120 coronavirus patients in intensive care, six more deaths

Moss covered branches are seen in the Avatar Old Growth Forest near Port Renfrew on Vancouver Island, B.C. Thursday, Sept. 29, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. blockades aimed at protecting old-growth forests reveal First Nation split

Two Pacheedaht chiefs say they’re ‘concerned about the increasing polarization over forestry activities’ in the territory

Everett Cummings in a tribute video posted to dignitymemorial.com.
Mechanic’s death at Fraser Surrey Docks leads to $200K fine for company, union says

Photos of rally outside Surrey court posted on ILWU’s ‘Kill A Worker Go To Jail’ Facebook page

Richmond RCMP Chief Superintendent Will Ng said, in March, the force received a stand-out number of seven reports of incidents that appeared to have “racial undertones.” (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
‘Racially motivated’ incidents on the rise in B.C’s 4th largest city: police

Three incidents in Richmond are currently being invested as hate crimes, says RCMP Chief Superintendent Will Ng

Commercial trucks head south towards the Pacific Highway border crossing Wednesday (April 14, 2021). The union representing Canadian border officers wants its members to be included on the frontline priority list for the COVID-19 vaccine. (Aaron Hinks photo)
CBSA officers’ union calls for vaccine priority in B.C.

Border officers at ports including, YVR and land crossings should ‘not be left behind’

Most Read