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St. Albert woman celebrates 100 years

Visitor restrictions in senior care home relaxed "just in time," family says

Visitor restrictions in Alberta’s senior care homes were relaxed just in time for a celebration a century in the making. 

St. Albert’s Theresa Werner marked her 100th birthday with family at the Citadel Senior Care Centre on Aug. 4. 

The province relaxed its rules for long-term care home visits in late July amid COVID-19, just in time for Werner’s family to plan an outdoor get-together to celebrate.

Born in 1920, Werner said she never thought she’d see a pandemic like this in her lifetime. 

“Never in all my life, even after (all) I’ve been through," Werner said.

Werner is the youngest of five siblings and grew up living on a farm in the town of Kovin, located in the former Yugoslavia. 

After Werner married and had one child, she was forced to leave her home with her family during the Second World War. Yugoslavia was ripped apart during the war, when the Nazis began bombing the country and then split up the entire state among Axis powers.

“They were bombarding and we ran into the basement,” Werner remembers. “They came into the house and chased us out.”

Due to the conflict, Werner and her daughter were separated from her husband for five years before they reunited in Canada in 1953. 

“We came here with nothing and worked our whole life to save money,” she said. 

Following the birth of her second daughter Carol, the family moved to the Southgate area of Edmonton in the 1970s. Two decades later, tragedy struck – her husband died suddenly in 1993, and then her eldest daughter Anne passed away from cancer five years later. 

But Werner persevered for her youngest daughter, raising her family while staying busy – she cared for a vegetable garden until she was 98 years old. After needing a hip replacement and then another leg surgery, she had to leave her home for long term care in 2019. 

With a century of life experience, Werner did have this wisdom to share – enjoy each day, but keep everything in moderation. 

“No smoking. My brother smoked and my dad smoked, that’s just how things were those days. With food, you had everything grown and made, you didn’t go to the store to buy so much,” she said. Werner was quite the cook, and rarely ate at restaurants. 

But when she did indulge, she said she’d much rather enjoy the occasional glass of red wine with a splash of seltzer than a cup of coffee.

“Just a little bit of wine is healthier than coffee. Coffee, people drink too much,” she said.

Carol Brailey, Werner’s daughter, visited her mother in person at the Citadel last week. 

She had been planning a special day for her mother, starting with a hair appointment in the morning followed by a big outdoor celebration at her grandson’s house, where they could practice social distancing and enjoy a nice lunch together. 

“A month ago, we really thought we wouldn’t be able to do hardly anything for her 100th birthday because everything was shut down,” she said. 

“But then, all of a sudden, just in time, the rules loosened up so we can actually take her out. What timing!” 

Brailey said she felt “so relieved” to finally be able to see her mother in person again, even if the visit is bittersweet. The anxiety over the possibility of the virus still finding a way into the facility reminds at the back of her mind all the time, she said. 

The Citadel care centre did experience a COVID-19 scare in late June when a staff worker tested positive for the virus. After putting additional safety measures in place, staff and residents tested negative on July 1. 

Brailey said her family is thankful they will get to enjoy and celebrate her mother’s milestone together. 

“We’re just so happy that she has lived this long, and is this healthy still. We just need to enjoy each day, because you never know when it may be the last one with her.”

Brittany Gervais

About the Author: Brittany Gervais

Brittany Gervais joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2020. She writes about city hall, business, general news and features.
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