by Dominique Liboiron
Hazel Foster sat at the piano in the common room at Cypress Lodge Care Home. Her family and friends were gathered to celebrate her special occasion. Foster’s fingers danced across the keys as she played “Happy Birthday.” What impressed me the most was how she was able to play the entire song from memory; not bad for someone who was turning 105.
I was standing next to the piano on Family Day as Foster tickled the keys as part of her birthday celebration. I had arrived at Cypress Lodge before the party so I could interview Foster. She took the time to tell me her story and shared what she thinks is the secret to her long life.
Foster was born at home in Pense, Sask. on Feb. 19, 1913. One of her very first memories is when World War One ended. She remembers her dad set off fire crackers as a way to celebrate the end of the war.
Her parents, Henry and Elsie Lovell, were both from England. Her father came to Canada and worked in Regina for a year then he sent for his wife. The couple moved to Pense where Foster’s father was a barber. The Lovells had four children, a girl and three boys. “I’m the oldest and I’m still kicking,” Foster joked.
While living in Pense, Foster met her future husband Aksel Nielsen. He was originally from Denmark, but worked on a farm near Pense. They were married Oct. 4, 1934 and they had three children: Morton, Carol and Ruth. Carol and her husband Fred Anderson have lived in Maple Creek since 1968.
Nielsen became a mechanic and had his own garage in Keystown, Sask. which was a small community about seven miles north of Pense. Sadly, Nielsen died in a fire in 1941.
Although she has faced ups and downs in life, Foster credits her dad for teaching her how to overcome the bumps in the road. Her dad’s philosophy was to think positive and to not worry about the future.
Despite the challenges, there were joys in life, too. “I have three children I’m proud of,” Foster shared. When asked about her hobbies and interests, Foster replied with quick wit, “I like everything that’s fattening and legal.”
Jokes aside, Foster said music was also a source of joy. “I love to play the piano,” she said. She also has fond memories of being in a band. “I played for dances with two other fellows.” Foster likes playing cards and dancing, as well. She used to make her own greeting card, too.
In 1948, Foster married Bill Fletcher and they shared 25 years together before he succumbed to a heart attack. In 1978, she married Jack Foster who later passed away from old age.
Over the course of her long life, Foster has seen many changes in terms of technology, gender roles and lifestyle. Despite all the transformations she has seen, what sticks out the most for her is how life is so much easier now than before; especially considering what life was like without modern conveniences.
When asked what the secret to her longevity is, Foster thinks attitude plays an important role. “I just enjoy life, period.” She added, “I never let it get me down.” Foster doesn’t shy away from the fact life wasn’t always easy, but the hard times never got the final word. “I live for today and I let tomorrow take care of itself.”