A Red Deer lady who turned 110 recently has reached a milestone that few in the world have today.
Mary Dubyna celebrated her 110th birthday Sept. 22 at her home in Oriole Park.
She is quite hard of hearing but otherwise essentially a physically healthy woman who has witnessed a myriad of changes sparked during the 20th century.
Originally from Poland, Dubyna moved to Canada with her family in the early 1900s, explains her daughter Ann Frewin, who lives in Donalda with her husband Alf.
“She was a baby when she came over, and the family first settled in Manitoba.”
As a young woman, Dubyna worked first in Winnipeg before relocating to Calgary.
That’s where she met her husband Nick and the couple went on to have three children – Ann, John and Mike.
Nick passed away in 1970.
When Mary reached 100 years of age, her doctor told her she could no longer stay in her own home alone. Up to that point, she’d been faring quite well, thank you very much.
And although she doesn’t say much today, her expressive eyes speak volumes. There is much sensitivity and emotion there, and she protectively eyes her daughter Ann when she speaks on her mother’s behalf.
“Me and my husband left Calgary in 1997 when we moved out to Donalda, and we’d go in to see her for three or four days. She’d putter around in her garden and her flower beds, and she’d get mad when you cut the grass for her because she figured she could still do it,” explains Ann with a smile.
Mary later moved to live with Ann in Donalda for five years before settling into a private care home in Red Deer a few years ago.
Ann says her mother still has a lot of feistiness to her personality, and still has a mind of her own.
“She never liked doctors and would never go to one,” says Ann with a laugh. Her mom had a pacemaker put in four years ago and to this day doesn’t much care for heading to appointments to have it checked.
“She’s not one to really ‘follow the leader’,” adds daughter-in-law Pearl Dubyna with a chuckle.
As for looking back, when Ann thinks of her mom in days gone by she thinks of a woman committed to hard work. As to her longevity, Ann says her mom always had a large garden to draw from so the family could eat as naturally as possible.
She also attributes her mom’s longevity to healthy eating, hard work, no drinking and no smoking – “although she would have the odd cigarette to keep me company,” she laughs.
Mary was also a woman to consistently look ahead, although now in her older years her mind does wonder to her younger years, explains Ann. Sometimes the tears will flow as she must be considering painful times as well.
Nevertheless, this is a time to celebrate a rich heritage – Mary has seven granddaughters and 13 great grandchildren.
“I don’t really know how many people, even in the world, live to this age. To me, it’s amazing,” says Mary’s son Mike who recalls his mom’s passion for being outdoors and encouraging her children to follow suit. “After she got passed 100, everyone was saying “How long do you think you’ll live? I said I think I’ll hang in there till I’m 120 as long as they keep sending me my pension checks,” he joked, referring to his family’s apparent ‘longevity’ gene.
Meanwhile, although Mary has reached this astounding milestone, she hasn’t quite reached the status of being Red Deer’s oldest citizen of all-time.
“There have only been a handful of people in the world who have lived as long as this lady,” said Michael Dawe, city historian.
Ultimately, though, the oldest person ever known to have lived in Red Deer, according to Dawe, was Agnes Munce who was born Jan. 17, 1877 in Parkhill, Ont.
She died Dec. 16, 1988 in Red Deer at the age of 111 years and 11 months.
At the time, she was the oldest person in Canada, and the second oldest in the world behind Jeanne Calmet of France who was 114.
But clearly, Mary is not far behind, says Dawe. And that is pushing her into an international group that isn’t all that large. “She is getting to be among the oldest people in the world.”