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Isabel of Stettler celebrates a century of life

January 24th, 2024

Isabel enjoys her birthday party.

Ever wonder what it would be like to live one hundred years? Well, let’s just say you would see and hear a lot of things. Isabel N. of Stettler did, given she was born back in 1923 when people still drove horses and buggies to get around. 

You would remember when folks first got electricity and flushable toilets in their homes. Or when you acquired your very first refrigerator. (It was ice boxes before then.) There was the Second World War, the first human being to walk on the moon and, of course, the invention of television and the internet.

Isabel has lived through it all. And this past December, she marked her 100th birthday with friends and family at Points West Living Stettler, which was more than a celebration of her longevity. It was to share the memories of a lifetime lived with family and friends and to cherish the peace she feels now as an elder of the community.

Isabel’s parents Mary Ann Taylor and Albert Campbell met aboard a ship coming from Scotland to Canada during the First World War. They married in 1918 and began raising a family of seven kids.

Isabel says these were some of the best years of her life. “Growing up, we did different things every year.” Like so many of her peers, she grew up on a farm among several siblings. It was in Byemoor, Alberta, and everyone pitched in to keep things running.

“I used to come home from school and get into my old jeans and go chase the cows up in the pasture to put them in the barn,” says Isabel, who recalls her childhood fondly.

She remembers having the help of Bowser, the family dog.

“He was a special dog,” says Isabel. “He had a lot of work to do to go out and bring the cows in. And he would bring them right into the barn.

“Sunday mornings you had to go to church, whether you wanted to or not,” Isabel says. “So, you had to dress up and go to the church and you weren’t allowed to make noise there either.”

As a young girl Isabel often joined other children from church to assist neighbours by shovelling snow, sweeping sidewalks or running to the store. Isabel was also part of the Canadian Royal Purple, a social group that supports young community volunteers.

Isabel recalls that the WW II years meant everyone was rationed for their consumption of sugar, tea and coffee. The war left its mark on Canadians both here and abroad.

She was in her late teens when she met her future husband, Glenn. They would get married in 1944 when she was 21 and, like her parents, she and Glenn would have seven children of their own.

Isabel was a mother and a housewife on the farm, an accomplished baker and a seamstress who could make clothing as well as linens. Her daughter says Isabel was a perfectionist with the needle, making Christmas dresses for her girls as well as graduation dresses, pantsuits, skirts and shirts for her husband.

Isabel was also a dedicated curler and an avid gardener, and loved to read.

After her children grew up and moved away, Isabel and her husband left the farm to live in town. It sounds as though the move was a bit of a culture shock in the beginning.

“The move into Stettler was really something. We had to meet all new people. And we had to keep our lawn cut. I didn’t have much of a lawnmower so I had to borrow one,” Isabel recalls.

With retirement came the opportunity to travel and to go back to where her parents came from so many decades earlier. The trip to Scotland was memorable and one thing stood out. Isabel said she’d always heard that Scottish people were kind of stingy. Not so, says the daughter of a Campbell.

“When you went to their place, they always served good meals. Even better than Alberta.”

Isabel says she’s most proud of having learned to speak a little Gaelic while in the old country.

“I learned to speak it a little. I had to learn.”

All of Isabel’s siblings, as well as her husband, have passed on. But in addition to her children, she now has 16 grandchildren, 19 great-grandchildren and seven great-great-grandchildren.

As for what she attributes to a long and healthy life, Isabel figures it’s anyone’s guess.

“I don’t think anybody knows why you live to a certain age. But if you enjoy life, it’s much easier to live.”

See more photos here.

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