One of Kamloops' oldest residents just turned 104!

When Maud LeBlond was born, the First World War was in full swing, Charlie Chaplin was an up-and-coming star and the Vancouver Millionaires had just been crowned Stanley Cup champions.

In other words, 1915 seems quite far away, and the changes LeBlond has seen since her birth in Calgary on Aug. 19 104 years ago have been seismic, to say the least. Today, though, she celebrated yet another birthday, surrounded by friends and family.

LeBlond grew up in Calgary, her daughter Rena McCrea says, spending some time in an orphanage with her brother and sister until she was 16.

"She would wash shirts for people by hand with the old scrub board," McCrea says. "Then she met my father on a blind date. He took a look at her hands and said, 'You'll never have to do that again.'"

After a short courtship, the two were married and started a family in the '30s. In 1940, she and the family moved to Kamloops and — not to skip over too much — she just celebrated her birthday at Active Care Senior Services, a retirement home she's lived in for only a couple of years.

McCrea says her mother has seen Kamloops evolve over the years. When they first moved to town, Kamloops had fewer than five cars, downtown Kamloops had troughs for horses to drink out of and LeBlond wouldn't think anything of walking from their farm in Mission Flats (it flooded in 1948) to downtown.

"In those days, everyone would walk everywhere. Like, Grandma would walk from Mission Flats over to north Kamloops," says Juanita Bouwmeester-Nicholson, McCrea's daughter. "What Grandma has seen in her lifetime, to me, is mind-boggling."

The family believes walking is one of the keys to LeBlond's long life. When asked if she walks every day, she brightens up, exclaiming "Honest!"

"Even when she was 100 years old, she used to walk down from Ponderosa Place (she owned an apartment in behind the lodge)," Bouwmeester-Nicholson says. "She walked every day down to Lansdowne, to the mall. She'd do some grocery shopping, look at clothes and walk all the way back up Third Avenue."

A strong faith in God and the Roman Catholic Church along with never smoking or drinking also helped her meet her 11 great-great-grandchildren (the oldest of which is 10).

"She's just a very, very physically strong and mentally strong woman," Bouwmeester-Nicholson says. "My sister was just here yesterday with their granddaughter, so it would be grandma's great-great-granddaughter and she's four. ... We were up dancing. We have a record player, with Roy Orbison."

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story called the retirement home Greenfield Gardens, a former name for the site. The facility is now known as Active Care Senior Services.

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