Born on July 7, 1912, Alice Van Heukelom has now turned 100. Born south of Carlyle on the family farm, in a sod house, she grew up with four brothers. They all went to the country school and in the summer would attend barefoot. She enjoyed school, especially arithmetic.
With very little room in the sod house she remembers playing under the table to keep out of the way. In 1918 the sod house was taken down and a new house was built.
As the only daughter in the family she was put to work in the house and under the supervision of her mother she learnt a wide variety of skills. Gardening, baking, and doing dishes were some of her typical chores. She would dry the dishes that her mother washed, but she does remember attempting to get out of household duties at one point. “I hid in the shed thinking I would get out of the dishes. When I came in they were sitting there and I had to do them all by myself.” Van Heukelom stated.
One time she had the opportunity to work in the field during threshing season. Van Heukelom was even able to drive the tractor for her brother at this time. “It was so nice to not have to do dishes. To just eat and be away again.” she stated. Greatly enjoying the change in pace that field work offered to her usual duties.
Finishing country school she attended high school in Carlyle. Once done here she moved onto normal school in Regina where she received training to become a teacher. For approximately 20 years of her life she molded young minds in the schoolroom.
“Sometimes we waited all year for the wages, especially in the 30s and 40s when the pay wasn’t even very high.” Mrs. Van Heukelom recalled.
She took a short break from teaching in 1950 to work at something else. Taking a job in Russell, MB, she worked in a store for three months. Deciding that the pay was not quite enough she moved back to south eastern Saskatchewan, and was rehired at the school just north of the lakes near Kennedy where she had been before venturing to Manitoba.
She had known her husband, Louis Van Heukelom, for quite awhile before getting married. “I suppose we met at a school dance at some point.” Van Heukelom said. Together they had a boy, Larry. Larry has since married Donna Wall from Yellow Grass. They have three children: Sarah, Ray, and Jefferey.
Van Heukelom reminisced, “I babysat my grandkids quite a bit when they were younger. I was lucky enough to have them close by.”
Van Heukelom now has five great-grandchildren. She doesn’t get to see them very often because her grandchildren have moved from the area, but she loves them all greatly.
Though she is living a long and fulfilling life it wasn’t one without struggles. She has broken bones, had multiple surgeries for various ailments, and is a cancer survivor. “I’ve overcome a lot somehow.” Van Heukelom explains.
When asked the secret to gracefully growing older Van Heukelom does have a few tips.
Keeping your mind active: “I keep busy with crosswords, make scrapbooks, play solitaire, and listen to programs on the T.V., but I don’t just sit and watch it all day. I like to keep busy.”
Stay involved with what’s happening in the world: “Keeping scrapbooks keep me alive, it keeps you busy and involved. You know what’s going on in the world, not just around here.”
A routine: “Stay regular in what you do, like getting enough sleep when you need it.”
Living simply: “Garden vegetables were all we ate when young. I helped with canning and baking bread. Kids don’t really learn that anymore which is too bad.”
A good work ethic: “I knew how to work all through my life.”
Babysitting grandkids as much as you can: “Having kids around, I think helps keep you young, too.”
She does admit that a key to her longevity might be in her blood. Her mother lived to be 101 years old, not entering a nursing home until she was 97. Much of her mother’s family in fact had lived into their 90s, including her mother’s father who lived to be 98.
She wakes up at the same time every day, makes her bed, and then has breakfast. “If you don’t do that you might sit in bed and think you should just stay in it a little longer, which is not a good start to the day,” she states.
Still living on her own, Mrs. Van Heukelom, is quite spry for being 100 and a great conversationalist. Her son and daughter-in-law will visit almost every evening. If anything around the house needs to be fixed, her son will make sure it is.
Home Care visits every morning for about half an hour. “They bring my mail and open cans, do those kinds of things. I have smaller jars for the canned things to go into. They just help with things I could maybe do, but I’m a little weaker now than I used to be so it’s nice to just sit and watch them do it,” Van Heukelom said. She also enjoys the company of those that stop by as she greatly enjoys visiting with people, possibly another reason for her vitality.
To celebrate this amazing milestone a birthday tea was held in Manor at the Over Sixty Club between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Many friends and family attended to say hello and celebrate with the birthday girl. Many also reminisced about the years past. One story was quite entertaining as it was told that Van Heukelom had been challenged, a few years ago now, to a motor scooter race. Not backing down she accepted the challenge and won.
She was grateful to receive all of her birthday wishes. The Town of Manor presented Van Heukelom with a plaque to celebrate her 100 years, which she was very pleased to have. Letters from a variety of notable people were also displayed that day, including one from the Queen. She was especially happy to have her family and friends join her.