Gertie Johnston, a lifelong resident of Kelowna, dedicated community volunteer and avid world traveller, has died.
She was 106.
Johnston was a founding member of the Kelowna branch of the Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire, a charitable organization. She remained an active member of the chapter, which she helped establish in 1943, until just a few years ago.
She volunteered for Meals on Wheels for 35 years, and was active with the Salvation Army and Kiwanis club. She golfed until she was 94, always walking the course, and visited dozens of countries.
“She was an inspiration to all who knew her. Like the Energizer Bunny, she just kept going and going,” Johnston’s daughter, Wendy Cowley, said Monday.
Gertrude Marion Johnston was born May 5, 1913, seven years after the city was incorporated. She lived her whole life in Kelowna, passing away on Oct. 2. During her lifetime, Kelowna’s population increased from about 600 to 140,000.
Her own work life mirrored the city’s economic evolution. She was employed as a fruit picker, packing house worker and telephone operator before becoming the co-owner of a grocery store.
Of all her community interests, the IODE meant the most to Johnston. Over the years, the organization has directed tens of thousands of dollars from its thrift shop to children’s camps, bursaries, the local cancer centre, schools and bursaries for students.
“You name it, we’ve done it,” Johnston told The Daily Courier in 2005 of the IODE’s good works. “We’re happy to donate our time, energy and assistance to Kelowna.”
A passionate knitter, Johnston also made thousands of dollars’ worth of knitted goods each year for free distribution through nursing stations in Northern B.C.
In 1940, Johnston married her high school sweetheart, Harold Johnston. She is survived by three children, six grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. In August, age 106 years and five months, Johnston attended the wedding of one of her granddaughters.
The longest-lived Canadian was Marie-Louise Meilleur, who died in Quebec in 1998 at the age of 117 years, 230 days. Merle Barwis was the oldest-ever British Columbian, dying in 2014 at the age of 113 years, 334 days.