Chemainus woman turns 90 and shows no signs of slowing down

Barnett regularly walks 10k and follows all the other requirements for longevity

It has been well documented by the World Health Organization, National Geographic and other statistical age measuring surveys that longevity is on the increase worldwide, with women outliving men by 10 years on average. What seems consistent with healthy longevity is: health conscious choices, a sense of belonging/feeling loved, health care, healthy diet and exercise.

When interviewing Maisie Barnett who celebrated her 90th birthday on April 29, she shared “I started walking in the 10k when I retired as I did not have time before then”. What most impressed me was the fact that Maisie started walking for her own well-being. Maisie shared that she has won three gold medals (the third one received April 2019) and five silver medals for her age category in the 10k races.

Maisie’s first 90th birthday celebration was a complete surprise to her. It was organized by her good friends and neighbours, Anne and John Silins. At this surprise tea party, Maisie was presented with congratulations certificates for her 90th birthday from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the Lieutenant Governor General of Canada, the Lieutenant Governor of B.C., Premier John Hogan, and North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring (who also gave Maisie a bouquet of flowers).

Maisie’s second birthday celebration was held in Victoria while she and her 85-year-old partner, Neil, participated in the Times Colonist 10K race. They both won a medal, Maisie’s third gold medal. What an inspiration this 90-year-old woman is to all of us. Well done, Maisie!

Maisie’s family will celebrate their mother, grandmother and great grandmother’s 90th birthday at the end of May. Maisie has three grandsons, and eight great grandchildren (youngest four years/oldest 20 years). Maisie’s brother, Lewis, is 94 years young and lives in England.

Maisie and Neil walk hand-in-hand for 10K two to three times a week here in Chemainus. They also prepare and cook healthy meals together. Neil shared how they stop in at the Willow Street Cafe for coffee and a muffin after they walk 5K and before walking the remaining 5K home again. Maisie added “we share the muffin”. A conscious health choice they make to enjoy their longevity.

Maisie, as you can see in this photo, has a beautiful warm radiant smile that echos her sense of being loved, eating a healthy diet and exercising. Maisie and Neil showed me their calendar of their engagements for the week and month ahead. “We have season tickets for Chemainus Theatre, for concerts at St Michael’s and for the Victoria Symphony. Last year we went back to England for a visit and this August we will go to the Shakespeare festival in Stratford, Ontario”.

When Maisie was a young woman, she fell in love with Pete Hilton, who was a teacher, and whom she married in England. Pete accepted a teaching position in rural Saskatchewan in 1957. Maisie explained that Pete went ahead of her to Saskatchewan and she followed three weeks later with their two-year-old son and two-week-old daughter.

What a brave lady! As newcomers to Canada, Maisie and Pete faced new challenges such as no indoor plumbing, carrying water from the town Artesian well and learning to use a wood and coal stove. Maisie laughs as she remembers those years and says “those hardships made me stronger.”

When Pete retired from teaching in Chemainus, he and Maisie had a successful photography business at the corner of Henry Road and the Trans Canada Highway. Sadly, Maisie lost her beloved Pete in 1988.

When I asked Maisie and Neil what advice they have for today’s youth, they said “be friends for a long enough time before being lovers. In the friendship time know your partner’s likes, dislikes, and values. Have no secrets. Be honest with one another.”

Then Maisie added: “We tell each other very often how fortunate we are to have one another.”

(Chemainus’ Kathleen Kelly is the author of the book ‘The Tornadoes We Create.’)

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