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Osoyoos woman, Ethel Van Duzee, representing town at B.C. Senior Games at age 91
Ethel Van Duzee might be the youngest 91-year-old woman on the planet and she credits the game of golf and her active lifestyle for making her feel so young at heart.
Thanks to the combination of good health, staying active, her love of golf and an amazingly positive attitude, Van Duzee lives her life with the zest and zeal of someone half her age.
The longtime Osoyoos resident, who is one of the most popular and well-known members of the Osoyoos Golf Club, has spent the past few weeks playing more golf than she usually does as she prepared to participate in the B.C. Senior Games, which are taking place this week in Kamloops.
“I don’t do old,” said the energetic, charismatic and entertaining Osoyoos woman. “We’re programmed in this world to think we’re supposed to act a certain way when we reach a certain age.
“I’ve never bought into that and I’ve never believed that. I believe age is just a number and you’re as young as you feel.
“I’ve been blessed with good health most of my life, except for some pretty severe arthritis that has really not bothered me much since I started playing more and more golf. I may be 91, but I try not to think about how old I am. In my opinion, too many people stop living and enjoying their life as much as they should when they reach a certain age. I can tell you that’s never going to happen with me.”
Born in Calgary and raised in Edmonton, Van Duzee came to British Columbia way back in 1941 and has lived the past 62 years in Osoyoos.
After her first husband Fred Schaffer was killed by a falling tree in northern B.C. when she was only 26 years of age, she followed her sister to B.C. and ended up in Osoyoos.
A hair salon was for sale and Van Duzee fulfilled a dream by purchasing the business that was located on Main Street.
“I was still in training at hairdressing school in Vancouver at the time,” she said. “I made an offer and the woman, named Vee Fraser, accepted. I had the first air conditioned hair salon in Osoyoos, right across from where the Bank of Montreal is, and business was great right away.”
That building was co-owned by two men named Roy McDonald and Vern Hill.
McDonald invited her for dinner one evening back in the early 1970s and told Van Duzee about his plans to build a golf course in Osoyoos.
“He kept talking about fairways and greens and I had no idea what he was talking about because I had never been on a golf course in my life,” said Van Duzee laughing.
Their friendship formed the beginning of Van Duzee’s love affair with the game of golf.
“I had never played before, but joining the golf club was the thing to do back in Osoyoos back then,” she said. “There were very few couples in this town that didn’t join when the club opened.
“Even though I joined and was a member, I didn’t golf for many years because I wasn’t very good at it. I was close to 50 years of age before I started golfing.
“I only started because I like a challenge and I had played a lot of sports as a kid … I loved basketball and one of my greatest regrets in life was not trying out for the old Edmonton Grads basketball team when I was a young woman.”
For the past 40 years, Van Duzee has played thousands of rounds of golf and has loved every second of it.
“What’s not to like?” she asked rhetorically. “You’re out in the beautiful sunshine surrounded by great friends and Mother Nature and you’re having a lot of laughs. I fell in love with the game of golf and I’ve been in love with it for the past 40 years. There’s absolutely nothing I enjoy more than spending a day at the golf course with my friends.”
Playing golf is about getting exercise and having fun and posting a decent score hasn’t mattered to her in many years, she said.
“Today I had a good day as I shot 56 for nine holes … that’s a very good day for me,” she said smiling. “We have 36 beautiful holes of golf at this club so we’re very blessed.”
Van Duzee plays ladies night during golf season and at least two more times each week.
Her good friend Shirley Cryderman says Van Duzee is a pleasure to golf with and a wonderful person that everyone at the Osoyoos Golf Club considers a friend.
“Ethel is the most up person I know,” she said. “She never lets anything bother her and she’s always in a great mood. When I’m having a down day, the first person I call is Ethel because she always makes me feel better.
“We have a wonderful time every time we play golf and I couldn’t ask for a better friend.”
Cryderman said there aren’t many people at the Osoyoos Golf Club who don’t know Van Duzee and she remains one of the most popular members of the club with friends ranging from youngsters to fellow seniors.
“Everyone loves Ethel,” she said smiling. “She’s so much fun to be around and she really enjoys being around people and talking to them. She’s a lot of fun out on the golf course and she’s even more fun when we go back inside the clubhouse to have a few laughs.”
Participating in the provincial senior games and representing the Town of Osoyoos is an honour, said Van Duzee.
“Some of my friends who are competing in other sports talked me into this, but I’m going to go and have some fun and see what happens,” she said.
Van Duzee, who is the founding president of the Osoyoos Arts Council and a longtime community volunteer, said she hopes to be golfing and enjoying life for many years to come.
“I’m certainly looking forward to many more years on the golf course,” she said. “Why not? I’m in good health and I love the game and I can’t think of any other place I would rather be.”