Paynter family matriarch and author Sheila Treasure Paynter credits farming for her longevity.
“I think it is a healthy way to live,” said Sheila, who celebrates her 100th birthday on Thursday.
The sentiment would appear to carry some considerable weight as her late husband, Henry Oliver Paynter, lived to the ripe old age of 98, passing away in 2005.
Born at Kelowna General Hospital in 1920 and raised on a farm in Peachland, Sheila (nee McKay) earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology and English at the University of British Columbia.
During the Second World War she served with the Royal Canadian Air Force, working in a munitions factory in Summerside, P.E.I.
She met Henry while they both attended school in Peachland, but didn’t really get to know him until they were both discharged from service on the same day.
They were married in 1946 and settled into building their farm in Westbank, where they raised six children and enjoyed an active community life.
Henry served as a Mason and both were active in St. George’s Anglican Church.
Throughout her life Sheila has maintained a passion for words and writing.
She wrote poems and stories while attending the historic one-room school house in Peachland and later became a formidable Scrabble player for anyone who would take her on.
In the 1950s she wrote a column for B.C. Farm and Garden and more recently the Slice of Life column for the Westside Weekly.
She wrote plays and skits for her TOPS group and was an active member of Friends of the Library, the Verbal Gerbils writing group, Project Literacy and the Canadian Federation of University Women.
Sheila taught Kindergarten for seven years while her children were growing up.
During that time Sheila started a tradition of bringing school children to the farm to learn about how their food is produced.
That tradition is carried on today by Paynter’s Fruit Market and the Chefs in the Classroom program.
“Bringing children to the farm has been one of the most rewarding parts of my life,” Sheila said.
Over the years Sheila and her family became strong advocates for farming and preserving farm land and special places for future generations.
In recent years, Sheila contributed 10 acres to the creation of Glen Canyon Regional Park. The trail head is dedicated to the Paynter/McKay family.
Early on, Sheila was an active volunteer with the Gellatly Bay Aquatic Society which was the driving force behind the creation of Rotary Beach Park and walkway.
Sheila and her family also advocated for and made donations toward the creation of the Gellatly Nut Farm Regional Park.
Sheila has four books to her credit, in which she shares insights into local history, farm and community life and her love for Okanagan Lake.
In 1990, at age 70, Sheila walked 270 kilometres around the entire Okanagan Lake in 24 days.
She made the walk in stages. Each day family members took turns dropping her off in the morning and picking her up in the evening.
First Time Around published in 1991 was born of that adventure.
Two years later Sheila rowed around the lake in a 12-foot aluminum boat and wrote Reflections on the Lake (1994).
Both Henry and Sheila advocated for lifetime sports. They played competition badminton well into their senior years travelling around the world to participate in tournaments.
In her 60s, Sheila also took up golf. After playing all 14 golf courses that overlooked the lake at the time she wrote Okanagan Golf - Points of View (1996).
Most recently The Canadian Federation of University Women helped Sheila to compile a selection of her columns into a book called Slice of Life (2017).
In their later years Henry and Sheila divided the farm among their six children but remained active in farm and community activities.
Today, their children, grandchildren and extended family members can be found working at or behind the scenes with Paynter’s Fruit Market, Off the Grid Organic Winery, Westbank Corner Fruit Stand, XFARMR Developments Ltd., Westbank Produce, and Westbank Harvest.
Sheila continues to live in the home she built with Henry and enjoy visits with her family and the support of visiting caregivers. Her extended family now includes 14 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.
A large neighbourhood block party was held at the farm last year to celebrate Sheila’s 99th birthday.
This year, a quiet family celebration is planned.