Canada’s oldest woman dies at 114

Ellen Gibb’s long life credited to good genes, healthy habits, and her love for her family

As Canada’s oldest woman, Ellen “Dolly” Gibb’s zest for life won her national attention.

Once birthdays went into the triple digits, she would receive cards from the Queen and politicians at all levels of government. Reporters would come knocking to learn the secrets to her longevity.

After the 114-year-old’s death earlier this week, family members credited Gibb’s long life not only to good genetics and healthy habits, but her love for her sprawling brood of children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren.

“She was pretty connected to all of us,” her grandson Dave Crozier said by phone Friday. “We feel so fortunate to have had her in our lives for so long.”

He said Gibb died peacefully Wednesday at a nursing home in North Bay, Ont., with her daughter, Sue Crozier, who is Dave’s mother, holding her hand.

“Whenever you think of her gone, you just think of how easy she went,” Sue Crozier said. “We should all be so lucky to go that way.”

Dave Crozier jokes that Gibb was the world’s oldest “helicopter mom.”

Even as she approached 80 years old, Sue Crozier, who lived with her mother, said Gibb would worry every time she left the room.

“I think she really felt she was looking after me,” Sue Crozier said. “It could have been some part of what kept mom alive so long.”

This matriarchal tenacity extended to the rest of her kin, said Brittany Duggan, Gibb’s great-granddaughter. She would spend hours studying photos of family members, many of whom she rarely got to see.

“She was sharp, but she also worked at it. She just loved people. She loved everyone who came through her house,” Duggan said by phone from Squamish, B.C. “Really her presence and visiting her brought the family together.”

Born in Winnipeg on April 25, 1905, Gibb was the daughter of a Metis woman and a Scottish-Canadian prospector who had sought his fortune in the Klondike gold rush, said Duggan.

When Gibb was five her mother died after giving birth to another daughter, and her father raised Gibb and her siblings on a small farm in what is now Winnipeg.

Gibb developed an interest in fashion in her teenage years, which earned her the nickname “Dolly.” As a young adult, Gibb put her passion to professional use by working at the Eaton’s department store, but was forced to quit when she got married to her husband, Dave.

“She always sounded disappointed when she talked about it,” said Duggan. “I think if she had lived at a different time, she would have kept working.”

Gibb became a homemaker, and the young couple had two daughters. In 1941, the family moved to Thunder Bay, Ont., where Dave took a job at an airplane manufacturer as part of the effort to fight the Second World War.

After 40 years of marriage, Gibb lost her husband in 1968, but in a show of independence, lived alone in their home until the age of 100, said Duggan.

Over the years, people have offered a wide array of explanations for Gibb’s longevity.

She never smoked, and only started drinking in her seventies, enjoying a daily beer in her later years. She walked almost everywhere, and ate in moderation, including indulgences such as cream and butter as well as Timbits.

But Duggan believes that the force that propelled Gibb for more than a century was her fiery spirit.

“She wasn’t trying to outlive anyone or set any records,” she said. “I think if you asked her, she would have said (the secret is) to stand up for what you believe in.”

In addition to her husband, Gibb was also pre-deceased by a daughter and granddaughter. She is survived by her daughter, nine grandchildren, 22 great-grandchildren and 12 great-great-grandchildren, along with a large extended family.

A celebration of her life will be held Saturday.

Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Wetaskiwin RCMP look for wanted man after liquor store robbed

Wetaskiwin RCMP investigate armed robbery

Road allowance closure passes first reading

County of Wetaskiwin sends application to province

Alberta launches court challenge of federal carbon tax

Province wants a legal opinion on the constitutionality of Ottawa imposing the tax

Contact Maskwacis RCMP about missing Antoine Mackinaw

Maskwacis RCMP seeking public assistance in locating male

Jason Kenney hands out earplugs during debate on unions’ bargaining rights

Alberta premier gives earplugs to United Conservative caucus members so they can tune out the NDP

VIDEO: ‘Avengers: Endgame’ to be re-released with new footage

‘Avatar’ holds global box office record at $2.788 billion, while ‘Endgame’ stands at $2.743 billion…

More than 700 wildlfire evacuees in Alberta can soon return to Metis community

Evacuees from the Paddle Prairie Metis Settlement can safely return starting on Thursday

B.C. files second legal challenge against Alberta over turn-off-taps law

B.C. government filed a second lawsuit against Alberta on June 14

Tax credits, penalizing big polluters, key to Conservative climate plan

Canada’s commitment is to cut emissions to 70 per cent of what they were in 2005 before 2030

VIDEO: Acknowledging skeptics, finance minister vows to build Trans Mountain project

Bill Morneau said he recognizes ‘huge amount of anxiety’ in Calgary over future of oil and gas sector

Shovels could be in the ground on Trans Mountain by September, CEO says

Ian Anderson points to weeks likely required for NEB to reinstate 2016 regulatory record

Calgary man facing charges after B.C. police service dog aids in arrest

Heavy police presence results in PSD Jagger finding suspect

RCMP allows officers to grow beards

Members can now wear beards and goatees, as long as they’re neatly groomed

Wildfires have forced more than 9,000 people from homes in northern Alberta

People in other communities remain on evacuation alert and could be told to leave quickly

Most Read