Minnie Souproanuck was set to celebrate her 100th birthday on Oct. 15 at Totem Lodge and is “just happy to be here,” she said.
Born Minnie Cartwright in a farmhouse in South Wellington on Vancouver Island, she has always lived within a 100-kilometre radius of her birthplace. She was raised by her father and his folks – a medicine woman/midwife/gardener and a coal miner. One Friday in 1938, Minnie married Bill Souproanuck, honeymooned on Saturday and travelled by boxcar to Cowichan Valley on Sunday.
They lived among immigrant families in remote logging camps, where during the Second World War each woman was issued a rifle and compelled to undertake firearms training because “you are on the foreshore and if the enemy invades you will be our first line of defence.”
Tragedy struck in the 1950s, a coal oil lamp fire. While Bill fought the blaze, Minnie escaped with the two children. Camp 6 was evacuated. “We threw anything we could onto the moving boxcar to get out, stoves with coal still burning! Bill was burnt beyond recognition, but he lived.” A falling accident, another year healing, two more close calls and the couple opted to leave the camps.
In South Burnaby, Minnie also reared some of the children of her deceased brother, a veteran. She had a successful career with BC Tel, operated a hair salon with her aunt and occasionally swamped for Bill on long haul excursions. Together, they visited their son in New Zealand where they befriended the Maori and were invited into villages to share their rich culture.
As non-retired elders in 1982, they moved to Leanne Road in Sechelt to rear grandsons.
Minnie enjoyed exploring “every logging road on the Coast” by truck and camper; boating on the ocean; scuba diving; crossing Georgia Strait to join in family affairs; arts, crafts, friendships and her original 1920 Gibson guitar. She laughs: “1920 was a good year!”
After widowhood, Minnie found comfort travelling with Sechelt’s Sea Air Tours (and Christel, Fiona or her granddaughter).
People may recall her ceramics, paper tole, needlepoint, crocheting, volunteer driving, or involvement with service clubs like the Lions Club. Or, perhaps from Browning Road’s “Olden Golden” years, her angel collection, primping window boxes and relishing visits with great granddaughters and other caring people. She is a big fan of Leonard Cohen and a huge appreciator of live music.
Minnie’s key to longevity: “Be positive and drink plenty of ‘just plain’ water.”
On health food: “Eat fresh from the garden and drink green tea; it’s good for people AND plants.”