Esther Hoffman is the picture of health at 100 years of age.
Hoffman, who was born in southern Manitoba on Jan. 12, 1923, celebrated her 100th birthday surrounded by family and friends at Heaton Place Retirement Community in Armstrong Thursday.
Asked what her secret to a long life is, Hoffman was at a loss. “I have no idea,” she said. “I never thought I’d ever live this long.”
Whatever the key to longevity is for Hoffman, it’s certainly not meds; the centenarian isn’t on any medications whatsoever. She’s hard of hearing, but she moves around fine with her walker despite breaking her hip four years ago.
“They said I wouldn’t walk,” she recalls, having now defied that prognosis.
Hoffman has an extensive family. She was one of 13 siblings, had five children of her own, has 11 grandchildren and 15 great grandchildren.
Many of those family members were part of the 50-strong crowd that gathered to celebrate her milestone birthday, with a birthday cake big enough to feed a battalion.
For the relatives that live far away, she keeps in touch via her iPad.
“She loves FaceTime, that’s her favourite method of communication,” said Hoffman’s daughter, Eileen Tomlinson. “This morning we actually spoke to her niece in London (England) and saw her two little kids.”
Hoffman is a delight at Heaton, according to resident relations coordinator Carrie O’Neill.
“She’s a quiet presence in Heaton Place and we just love her.”
When asked what’s her favourite thing about living at Heaton, Hoffman had an answer right away: “I don’t have to cook.”
Hoffman met her late husband, a veteran, immediately after the Second World War. They got married in 1946 and were married for 73 years.
Most of her time through the years was spent raising their five children. She would do the cooking, sewing and canning.
“I remember mom canning, I remember her using a sawdust burner stove,” said Tomlinson, thinking back to her childhood days at their home at Eagle Rock north of Vernon. “She had a big garden and had a few animals that she took care of.”
In the evenings she would get to work making her children’s clothings from scratch.
“I don’t think that I had a shirt that was bought until I was probably in my teens,” said son Doug Hoffman. “A wool sweater, she can knit one in about three days. She would look at you and she would say ‘this is what you need.’”
Hoffman has withstood many challenging times in her life, from growing up in the Great Depression era to managing five rambunctious children.
“With five of us there were no dull moments,” Doug laughed.