Merle Barwis turned 112 this weekend, making her Canada’s oldest known citizen, and she’ll be celebrating it with a cold beer — surrounded by 38 grandchildren and many great grandchildren and great, great grandchildren.
The Langford resident, which lives at the Priory Hospital, has outlived two sons and has an 87-year-old daughter who lives in Medicine Hat.
“I think she’s going to outlive us all,” said grandson Richard Barwis of Sooke.
Media requests to cover the centenarian’s birthday have all been declined, said Richard Barwis, who hopes to arrange media access for Merle sometime in January.
Barwis’s longevity has made her a local celebrity. In a June 2010 interview, she was philosophical about her advancing age.
“If you’re old you’re old, if you’re young you’re young.
“What can you do about it?” she said.
“If every year I get a year older, you can’t do anything about it. You might as well go along with it.”
Barwis was born in Iowa in 1900 and grew up in Abbey, Sask., where her father was a horse rancher.
She loves to talk about the old days when she was a girl on the ranch, said her grandson.
She started riding horses at age three and grew up in the saddle. She met Dewey Barwis, a ranch hand, at a local dance and married him in 1923 in her parents’ parlor.
The couple came to Victoria in 1952.
She enjoys her privacy, saying a couple of years ago: “Keep busy and mind your own business. I think that’s a good idea.”
Her birthday will include a special treat that she’s been looking forward to — an ice-cold beer.
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