The spirit of longevity: Rose McIntosh on her 95th anniversary

Rose McIntosh celebrated her 95th birthday in Sandfield recently surrounded by her many friends and family members. photo by Julie McIntosh

SANDFIELD—On a breezy Saturday night, dancing alongside close friends and family members at the Sandfield Schoolhouse Community Hall, Rose McIntosh was living how she envisioned her 95th anniversary.

A potluck style diner was provided by guests. Slow-cooked macaroni and cheese from her granddaughter, chilli from her granddaughter-in-law, salads, chips and dip. The General Store and Country Kitchen also pitched in three large pizzas of their making. Indeed, the delicious meals provided was food fitting for a woman who had surpassed heart disease.

In between 30 to 40 attendees, largely family members and friends, were present to celebrate Ms. McIntosh’s vibrant, infectious love of life after she turned 95 on Friday, July 13. People drove from Montreal, Ottawa, from the Toronto region, Niagara Falls, and the Greater Sudbury region to see her. Friends from the Island were also in attendance. Rose plays cribbage at the Sandfield Schoolhouse, often organizing the event on Wednesday nights. Every other day of the week she fines an excuse for a competitive outing playing cards with friends like Patrysha Norton from Spring Bay, who was present at the evening.

“We’re major card players,” she says. Friends from the Island have grown fond of her over time, helping her with small errands and household chores over the years.

Ms. McIntosh has indeed been a stalwart of the Sandfield scene for almost half a century. She and her late husband Russell McIntosh bought her current property beside the General Store back in 1970. The home was historic in its own right; the prior family were composers and classical musicians. Ms. McIntosh lives independently, often receiving overnight visitors. In two years’ time, she and her children will have driven to her home leaving her to plot flowers in her wide garden for over 50 years.

“It’s an honour to go to her 95th birthday,” shared Jill Edwards of Sandfield. Ms. Edwards has been a friend of Rose for 20 years. Ms. Edwards is amazed by the nanagenarian’s independence: “She participates in everything.” Often, she cooks her meals at home, does laundry and cleans her home prior to visits.

Ms. McIntosh is not a woman who will sit back while activities unfold. But on this rare occasion, she allowed her close family to take the reins over her birthday: “I didn’t have nothing to do,” she says. “It was really good because Garfield and Duncan [her sons] set it all up. I let them do it the way they want and it turned out so good.”

Towards the end of the evening, Ms. McIntosh was presented with a two-feet wide heart-shaped vanilla cake cooked by the Sandfield County Kitchen.

After dinner, the evening was filled with melodies spun by Ms. McIntosh’s French Canadian relatives. Leon and François Bédard strummed the guitar as Darell Dewar fiddled sing-along songs alongside Bernard Noël de Tilly. She could be seen dancing with Jill Edward and her eldest son Garfield.

When many guests had left for the evening, Ms. McIntosh had finally sat down in the schoolhouse. In between conversations, she made time to speak with me: “The people here feel like brothers and sisters to me. All my neighbours. I really enjoy that.”

Ms. McIntosh is no stranger to small town notoriety. In 2007, she was recipient of the township of Sandfield citizen of the year award for her contribution to her local community.

Over the last year Ms. McIntosh learned of a long-lost daughter-in-law from her late husband during the Second World War, prior to them meeting. Sue White from Norfolk, England, and her sister came to visit Ms. McIntosh a few weeks prior.

Over a short period of time, Ms. McIntosh had open her arms and become increasingly acquainted with Ms. White. In fact, the former had hopes of them staying for another week. “She’s such a lovely person,” said Ms. McIntosh. “She stayed for three days. We got to be so friendly… they were so amazing that I almost started to cry.”

“I describe Rose as one of a billion exceptional and exquisite woman,” shared Sehar Horton, a family friend of Ms. McIntosh. She met Ms. McIntosh the day prior to the anniversary, but felt very welcomed into the family: “She can make you feel like her own within the first moment of meeting her.” They met the day before the anniversary.

For Ms. McIntosh, achieving the ripe age of 95 was never out of the question. “I feel perfect,” she shares. “I feel like I’m good to work.” As for her tips on succeeding in longevity: “I sleep good. I eat very well, and I enjoy other people in my house all the time. I don’t feel older. I have my flowers, my garden. I’m always occupied.”

“She has her religions she follows, and she gardens every day,” adds Ms. Edward. “Her house is her everything. She loves her home and cherishes it.”

“I felt like I have known this woman all my life,” adds Ms. Horton. “The birthday evening was an amazing family affair. I have never witnessed or experienced so much joy and love.”

As for Ms. McIntosh, she looks forward to the future by living her life day-by-day: “I get up in the morning, I have my breakfast by the table under the birds singing. I got my passport changed for another 10 years!” she laughs.