The secret to living to 100? Just be happy, Victorian says

Marium Dalton celebrated her 100th birthday on Canada Day, having outlived two husbands, living through two world wars and seeing five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren grow up.

Dalton, who spent much of her life working as a public health nurse, has brought life into the world and watched people leave it, but her secret to living to 100 is simple.

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“Just be happy,” she said, surrounded by her family at the Victorian at McKenzie retirement home, where she has lived for the last eight years.

“I enjoy meeting people, and I looked after sick people. I tried to make people happy, and it made me happy,” said Dalton, dressed in a black and white polka dot dress and a coral cardigan that matched her perfectly manicured nails.

“I had a wonderful, wonderful life,” she said. “I would do it all over again.”

Dalton was born Marie Berthe Fournier in rural Manitoba on July 1, 1915, the self-described spoiled middle child of 12 siblings. She described a happy childhood, with the family spending summers at a cottage on the Winnipeg River.

Dalton became a public health nurse and travelled to northern Manitoba to work on First Nation reserves. She delivered countless babies, remembering the time a man came in with his wife who was so far along in labour, the head was starting to breach.

Still fresh in her mind are the cold nights and intense storms but more fondly, she remembers the people.

“Everybody was so good to me, I never worried about anything,” she said.

It was also in northern Manitoba that she met her first husband, Laurence Frayne.

He came into the nurses’ station on her first day and said: “I came to see the new nurse.” The two were married not long after that.

The couple settled in Pine Falls, Manitoba, a small town along the Winnipeg River.

They had three children. The first, born on Christmas Day 1940, was a son named Noel. Family lore is that the doctor was a bit tipsy after holiday dinner.

Her husband was in the navy and stationed in Newfoundland and Prince Rupert during the Second World War.

Dalton took a train to Prince Rupert so the couple could conceive their second child; daughter Merrily was born in 1945. Their youngest, a boy named Kerry, was born in 1948.

“We had a good life,” Dalton said.

“I entertained a lot.”

Frayne died in the 1980s. At 81, Dalton married Laurie Dalton, who was 84. The two met through a grief support group for widows and widowers, and Dalton discovered what it was like to fall in love again.

“I was just the right person for him,” she said. “He was just wonderful, just a great person.”

In her retirement, Dalton travelled all over the world, to China, London, Paris, Hawaii and Arizona. When she was 90, she wrote her memoirs, a book called Stories Out of My Mouth.

Dalton moved to the retirement home in Victoria in 2007 to be closer to her sons.

Granddaughter Lindsey Marchessault, who flew in from Washington, D.C., said her grandmother has taught her about life, love, optimism and positivity.

“She’s been through challenges but she approaches life looking forward to the next thing, with an optimistic perspective that I’ve really taken to heart,” Marchessault said.

Dalton often greets new residents to the retirement home, welcoming them so they don’t feel lonely.

“She loves people in general, she tends to see the good in people,” said her daughter, Merrily Marchessault.

Nicole Evans, executive director of the retirement home, said Dalton “chooses to be happy every day.”

“That is the girl who represents what 100 is meant to be,” Evans said.

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