A 100th birthday party is no small milestone and for Constance Isherwood, the province’s oldest practising lawyer, the secret to her success is pretty simple.
“Keep breathing,” she says, with a smile just before a massive birthday day cake with 100 lit candles was brought out by Oak Bay firefighters. “Nobody in this world is really living today unless they’re breathing and what that means is look after yourself and your health.”
Surrounded by family and friends at Penny Farthing Public House, Isherwood offered a few more words of advice that she’s learned throughout the years.
“Keep working, you’ve got to keep at it,” she says. “And keep smiling … you’ve got to have a positive attitude, don’t let things get you down.”
Isherwood started law school the same year the first Polaroid Camera went on sale. She’s been practicing law for the past 69 years. She says that while she gets the question a lot, she answers “maybe next year” she’ll retire.
“But when you get to be 100, you don’t know how many next years they’re going to be so maybe I’ll start winding down a bit now but … I’ve enjoyed the work and I’ve enjoyed the people.”
Isherwood says that while she hasn’t gone to court for a while since the process has been “streamlined,” she remembers the feeling of being able to help those who needed it. The family lawyer recalls the feeling she would get when an adoption was complete.
“The parents seemed so grateful — it’s the realization of a dream for them — and that’s one thing I always remember, the way they seemed to be so grateful for the work,” she says.
But the biggest piece of advice Isherwood has to offer, is the same message she told the University of British Columbia graduating law students when she received an honorary doctorate, where she graduated from more than 69 years ago.
“Be approachable,” she says. “Let them come to you and then you can help them, that’s a good recipe.”
— With files from Arnold Lim