Betty Gould turns 100!

Betty Gould

‘It’s no big deal!’ popular Manor resident declares

LITTLE CURRENT—Longtime Mindemoya resident Betty Gould will tell you that reaching the birthday milestone isn’t a very big deal. “Oh there are lots of people living to be 100 these days, aren’t there,” she chuckles. But getting to the century mark is just one of the many things that single out the retired nurse as a truly remarkable person.

Born to English parents on September 19, 1918 in Perth, Australia, her father was a rubber plantation manager in Malaysia during the First World War. “The plantation was on the edge of the jungle and my parents agreed that wouldn’t be a very suitable place for a child,” she recalled. “So my mother went to stay with an aunt who lived near Perth in Australia where I was born.”

The war ended just a couple of months following her birth, but it would be a year later that her parents returned to England. “My mother left Australia and my father left his job in Malaysia and they met up in England.”

Ms. Gould grew up in England, attending school, first in a little town called Ditchling on the South Downs. “I hated it. It was like something right out of a Dickens novel,” she said. “My parents found me a much nicer school in Bexhill.” She was working in Bexhill during the 1950s when she and her good friend Betty Apnes decided they both were tired of their jobs and wanted to add a little adventure to their lives. Postwar Britain was a dreary and difficult place for a young woman.

“My friend was a registered nurse and I had experience in nursing from during the war,” she said. “So we came over to Canada and got a job at a hospital in Oshawa.”

Kagawong’s Mary Buie fetes Betty Gould with a birthday cake for her 100th birthday.

The two Bettys set about preparing for their new Canadian adventure. They purchased a one-ton panel truck and kitted it out with bunk beds and other items they would need for a comfortable life on the road.

Shortly after the two women arrived they made new friends, especially a nice couple from Oshawa. “The wife was one of the nurses at the hospital,” she said. “And he was a very nice chap.”

Their new friends were building a house and offered to let Ms. Gould and her friend park their truck on the property in return for keeping an eye on the equipment on site.

“There was an empty lot across the street and our new friend drove the truck over to it, put it in gear and then said ‘okay ladies, drive it around’ and we did.”

After a fair bit of grinding and cringing, they became reasonably adept at driving the huge truck around the lot and set out to get their driver’s licences.

“It was a very small town and the local undertaker was also the driving licence inspector,” recalled Ms. Gould. “He was so taken with our plan to drive across the country that I don’t think he was paying all that much attention to our driving, so we passed,” she laughed.

Betty Gould received a note from Queen Elizabeth II in honour of her
birthday, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, too.

The plan was to drive as far as they could on the money they had and then find jobs to replenish their coffers. This was in the 1950s, remember. Two women camping across the nation would have been a very unusual sight to say the least, but they had a lot of fun.

“We met a lot of Americans on our travels,” she said. “But not many Canadians would go camping in those days.”

The two Bettys made it to Alberta and found work. “We didn’t make it to the coast in the truck,” said Ms. Gould. But, undaunted, they completed the trip to the coast by train.

“We travelled back to England on the Queen Elizabeth (how appropriate for two Bettys),” she said. But life in England after their experiences in Canada proved too stultifying and so they returned to Canada with the Red Cross. After working in mining camps in remote northern communities (“we had a hilarious time”), Ms. Gould was sent by the Red Cross to Sudbury to study nursing to be a Registered Nursing Assistant (RNA) as she did not have her official nursing papers.

She originally intended to take up nursing in Uxbridge, but before she set out some friends insisted she had to see Manitoulin Island. It was love at first sight. “We said to ourselves ‘this is where we need to be’,” recalled Ms. Gould. They found a little log cabin on 100 acres of land and began working at the Red Cross Hospital in Mindemoya. The cabin proved too remote for winter travel to work so the two Bettys found a little stone house in Mindemoya.

What followed “in that dear little house” was a wonderful life, but eventually her friend developed Parkinsons and had to move into the Manor. Ms. Gould moved into TLC a few years later where the owners built her a little garden plot to tend, and then later after the owners sold the business, they moved Ms. Gould with them. When she became too frail for her adopted family to care for her, she moved into the Manor, which she describes as a wonderful place filled with lovely, caring people.

Today Ms. Gould spends her time reading and watching television, “TVO and PBS, none of the garbage stuff,” she said. “I think one of the things you must do as you grow older is to keep your mind active.”

Lucky, perhaps, but at 100 years Ms. Gould remains a bright and engaging woman and, while she might bridle at the label, a truly remarkable one at that.

Fellow nurse Mary Buie and her family came to help Ms. Gould celebrate her special day, complete with Black Forest cake. “They seem to have adopted me,” said Ms. Gould with a smile. A fortunate thing, because when you live a very long life your own family and friends tend to pass on before you.

Also when you hit the 100 mark, congratulatory cards and letters come pouring in. A certificate from Queen Elizabeth II and the Governor General of Canada are joined by a note from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, but there is one special card that Ms. Gould holds especially close to her heart. The son of an old friend in England sent her a hand written note inside a custom card (created by his son-in-law, famed nature show host Peter Scott. Mr. Scott is son of the famed arctic explorer Robert Falcon Scott). The note talks about how much his mother used to talk about her friend Betty.

“I don’t know how he knew I was here, let alone still alive,” laughs Ms. Gould. “It is funny. His mother and I kept in contact for years before she died and she talked about him all the time.”

As for the real secret behind her longevity, Ms. Gould shrugs philosophically. “Nothing special,” she said. “I am just lucky. Good genes I guess.”