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

Vandalism reports at two Duncan campaign headquarters

Offices of NDP Alistair MacGregor and Liberal Blair Herbert targeted

Antique chainsaws stolen from BC Forest Discovery Centre in Duncan

Public asked to keep a look out for stolen items

VIDEO: Hold onto your funny bones: Ron James is back on the Island

He’s been called ‘a genius’, and ‘funniest man in Canada’. Find out why when he comes to town.

Chemainus campground on the chopping block as ALC deadline looms

Owners fighting to continue facility’s operation, with a huge outpouring of support

UPDATE with VIDEO: Home on Allenby Road suffers early morning fire

The fire department was first called to the scene at 6:30 a.m.

Winnipeg student, killed in bus crash, remembered as passionate, kind

University of Victoria student Emma Machado, 18, was killed in the bus crash near Bamfield on Friday

Boy overdosed on illicit anti-anxiety drug found on Kelowna classroom floor, RCMP say

Noah Mills, 8, ingested a pink powdery substance off his Kelowna classroom floor

Fewer trees, higher costs blamed for devastating downturn in B.C. forestry

Largest driving factor is the province’s complex stumpage system that results in high fees, expert says

20 day search for missing Labradoodle in Princeton, B.C. ends with tears of joy

The search brought out bloodhounds, and groups hoping to find Mordy

Canucks sign Brock Boeser to three-year, US$17.6-million deal

Young sniper will be in Vancouver Tuesday

B.C. forest industry looks to a high-technology future

Restructuring similar to Europe 15 years ago, executive says

RCMP conclude investigation into 2017 Elephant Hill wildfire

Files have been turned over to BC Prosecution Service

Most Read