Iris Witherspoon shares a laugh with Colwood mayor Carol Hamilton at the West Shore Lodge where they celebrated Witherspoon’s 100th birthday.

Iris Witherspoon shares a laugh with Colwood mayor Carol Hamilton at the West Shore Lodge where they celebrated Witherspoon’s 100th birthday.

Ahead by a century

Reaching the century mark at West Shore Lodge in Colwood

Iris Witherspoon is beaming.

Wearing a silver and pink tiara, a sash emblazoned in red and blue, a pink ribbon and a bejewelled silver wand, the birthday girl laughs and smiles out at dozens of fellow West Shore Lodge residents as laughter, smiles and gifts roll in.

It isn’t every day someone turns 100.

“It was quite a special event so of course we wanted to mark that … She is a great sport. We would not let this day go by without celebrating it,” said Lodge general manager Catharine Henderson. “We are a community here among residents and staff and we are one big family.”

Witherspoon, a former nurse’s aide, banker, caregiver from Saskatchewan via Ontario, has been a resident of Colwood since 1972 – the last 12 at the Lodge following a mild stroke. Staff waitress Diane Galbraith said in her four years at the Lodge, Witherspoon has been a model resident and is first to offer a smile and a greeting every time they meet.

“She is really sweet and kind. She is someone that doesn’t talk much, but you know she is there,” Galbraith said. “She is really open and honest to you and always saying how thankful she is to have us around – really caring and kind.”

Henderson said that kindness is combined equally with wit. Witherspoon shares a passion for animals as well as children, having once being stationed at a sanitorium in Saskatchewan caring for children with tuberculosis.

“We are honoured to be sharing in this day with Iris and it is something that is still fairly uncommon,” Henderson said. “To come to that stage in life and still have a smile on your face and be a happy positive lady, she is a good role model for us.”

For the still-beaming Witherspoon, the party was all a pleasant surprise. “I can’t put it into words; it’s unbelievable. It is wonderful what they are doing; my golly, I had no idea,” she said. “I thought I was going to sit at the table for lunch or a snack and look at this. The staff is so wonderful and the management is great. Thank you.”

alim@goldstreamgazette.com