Happy 104th birthday to our oldest resident, Mrs. Kathleen Hamilton
The secret to a happy, long life is playing piano, loving animals and living at home with family.
Good advice from someone who knows. Kathleen will be celebrating her 104th birthday on December 7th. She is the oldest resident in a BC Housing directly managed rental building and one of more than 33,000 seniors helped by BC Housing.
Kathleen’s home is at Cheshire Place in Chilliwack with her daughter Brenda, Brenda’s partner Peter, and their dog Toklat. The 10-suite, 2-storey building is freshly painted and surrounded by well-kept garden patios. Built in 1992, Cheshire Place is BC Housing’s first affordable market rental housing project.
Affordable rental housing is for people with low-to-moderate incomes who may not qualify for subsidized housing. Rents are below-market or the lower-end of market housing for resident communities.
Kathleen has lived at Cheshire Place for two years. “It’s a real home! I used to live in a very nice seniors’ lodge in Vancouver, but this is much better. Living with family is everything!” says Kathleen.
Birthday celebration plans include a special meal, cake, and precious family time. Music will be a big part of the celebration. The whole family loves it.
“All of us kids are conservatory-trained musicians. But it’s Mom who’s the real talent,” says Brenda.
Chatting with daughter Brenda
Kathleen is a former church musician and plays piano every day. Her well-polished upright holds place of honour in the sun-drenched room. Music fills the home and impromptu concerts happen daily. Sharing Kathleen’s piano bench, family members often join her in play.
The retired schoolteacher plays from memory. She knows the music to hundreds of hymns and songs.
Life wasn’t always so easy. One of nine children, Kathleen grew up on a family farm in Saskatchewan during the Great Depression. For 10 years, extreme drought, dust storms and pests kept destroying wheat crops across North America’s mid-west. Even if wheat grew, it couldn’t be sold. It was worthless. The global depression collapsed grain sales everywhere.
“It was hard times. People struggled to keep food on the table,” Kathleen says.
Throughout, Kathleen helped her family raise animals and grow vegetables. Music lessons and playing piano were her joy. Kathleen became a well-known musician in the drought-stricken area, often called upon to play at church and community events, bringing comfort to people bitten by poverty.
Later, Kathleen went on to a one-year teacher training program. Afterward, she taught grades one to nine for 39 children inside a one-room schoolhouse. “The first week of school was always more tears than homework. Returning each fall was hard on the little ones,” says Kathleen.
A devoted wife and mother, Kathleen says “most of my life has been about love and looking after others”.
For more information about affordable rental housing from BC Housing, or to apply for subsidized housing options in BC, including help with rent payments go online: https://www.bchousing.org/housing-assistance.