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Lillian Wells celebrates 100th birthday
At a century old, Lillian Wells still dresses elegantly and looks much younger than her age.
The mother of Osoyoos Mayor Stu Wells celebrated her 100th birthday on Sunday, April 13 at a gathering of many friends and admirers at Osoyoos United Church.
It’s a church she left her mark on – about 40 years ago she was “the instigator” of a campaign to acquire the large stained-glass window over the church’s alter.
“She was the instigator and she wanted a stained glass window,” said the mayor. “She was the keeper of the money. She was pretty determined that we were going to have a stained glass window in this church.”
Over the years she also taught Sunday school at the church, looked after the gardens and worked in the basement thrift shop.
Hard work and determination are qualities that have characterized Lillian Wells throughout her life.
She grew up on a farm near Paynton, Saskatchewan and times were tough, Stu Wells said.
His older brother, Terry, her only other child, said she arrived in 1936 in Kelowna by train and in those days the journey to Penticton required a boat trip on the M.V. Pentowna.
She was planning to stay and help her grandmother in Penticton, but plans changed abruptly when her grandmother suddenly died.
“I think it was day two of her visit to help and she [the grandmother] was at the dining table and keeled over and that was the end,” said Terry.
Lillian then stayed in Penticton and supported herself through such odd jobs as working in a packinghouse, working for a dry cleaner and being a nanny.
Soon afterwards, two of her sisters and her mother came to Penticton to join her.
Then, the following year, she met George Wells, whom she married in 1939.
It was the start of World War II and her husband tried three times to enlist, but was refused because of a heart murmur.
Instead he worked in the shipyards in North Vancouver as a riveter and welder.
Terry was born in 1940, early in the war, and Stu was born in 1945 just after the war ended.
The family subsequently moved back to Penticton and in 1953, they came to Osoyoos, where George Wells took on the Home Oil distributors agency, which became the family’s business.
Stu recalls his mother used to make the walk between their home near the school and the oil plant four times a day, walking on the railway tracks and returning home for lunch.
“It was a family business and everybody worked,” Stu said. “I worked there on Saturdays and Terry worked there on Saturdays.”
While Lillian Wells doesn’t offer any secrets as to why she has outlived so many friends, she does point out that she been able to avoid taking medications.
Stu said he looked at his mother’s medical expenses recently and found that other than some inexpensive eye wipes, her ongoing prescription medicines totaled only 28 cents a week.
“Not bad for 100,” he said.
As she blew out three candles and made a ceremonial cut to the cake, her sons and some of the guests spoke glowingly about her.
“Any lady here would understand that living in a household of three men, there’s quite a few obstacles,” said Stu. “Mom was the matriarch of that family, with a lot of initiative and drive. We certainly were fortunate to have Lillian Wells as our mother.”
“Mom we are so proud of you,” Terry added. “You’re an inspiration to all of us. You’re a mentor to the community. It’s your hundredth birthday and you deserve many more and I’ve got a feeling you’re going to have a few more.”