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'I don't worry too much and I'm nice to people': Woman believed to have been oldest Manitoban dies at 111

اخبارالعرب 24-كندا:الخميس 15 سبتمبر 2022 10:05 صباحاً "Never change, be yourself, don't worry, and everything will work out."

Those are the words Jemima Westcott's family remembers her saying at family birthdays and celebrations.

Westcott, known better as Mime, died on Aug. 24 at the Dinsdale Personal Care home in Brandon, Man. At age 111, she was one of few Canadians to become a supercentenarian — having not only lived past her 100th birthday, but past her 110th — and may have been the oldest person living in Manitoba.

"It's hard to believe she's gone. It just seems like she's always been there," said her son Ron Westcott, 77, from his home in Winnipeg.

"It was amazing when we think [of what] she lived through — the Spanish flu, she lived through the two world wars."

Mime was still active, reading books, watching sports, and even making a trip to North Dakota in July with family, where she got to meet her newest great-grandson.

Mime travelled to Lake Metigoshe, in North Dakota, this past summer to visit family. (Submitted by Rae Westcott)

"Up til just a few days before her death, she was mentally intact," said her son Rae Westcott, 81, who now lives in Tsawwassen, B.C. "She functioned independently in her own condo until she was 106."

The Westcotts believe their matriarch may have been among the oldest living Canadians, with just a handful of people in the country older at the time of her death.

Statistics Canada says as of 2021, there were 9,545 Canadians over the age of 100 — just 0.03 per cent of the Canadian population — but they don't keep tabs on how many are over 110.

She is believed to have been the oldest person living in Manitoba — though Manitoba Vital Statistics doesn't keep track of the oldest residents in the province, so there's no way to confirm whether Mime held that title.

Grew up in rural Manitoba

One of 11 siblings, Mime grew up on a farm near Lauder, in southwestern Manitoba.

Her sons said when they would ask their mother about the biggest invention of her lifetime her reply would be the radio.

"The radio brought the world to Lauder," said Ron.

Mime — seen here second from the left, with her mother and grandmother in Saskatchewan in 1911 — was one of 11 siblings. (Submitted by Rae Westcott)

Her family couldn't afford a radio when the technology first appeared on the Prairies, but she told her sons how life-changing it was when the neighbours got one.

"The neighbours would put the radio up to the phone and the kids would take turns listening on the phone to a hockey game," said Ron.

A Prairie girl her whole life, Mime stayed in southwestern Manitoba, finishing her high school years in Souris and later moving to Douglas, where she worked as a teacher. There, she met her husband and had five children.

Ron says as grain farmers, the family didn't have much, but they always had good food on the table and clean clothes to wear. 

Her husband died in 1965 and she never remarried.

Both her sons recall spending their youth at the community hall and rink in Douglas, where the family became heavily involved in the local curling scene.

Ron Westcott, 77, holds up a photo of his mother, Jemima Westcott. (Holly Caruk/CBC)

Mime retired from her job as an elementary school teacher at 65, and then spent a year travelling in Australia.

"She travelled with a granddaughter and some of her friends doing the hostel route and backpacking," said Rae.

She also travelled the world following her passion — curling. 

"She was part of what they called the pond-hoppers, and they actually had a curling event during the worlds just for the fans that travelled," said Ron, who was inducted into Manitoba's Curling Hall of Fame himself in 2016.

Mime also travelled to Penticton, B.C., in 2018 to watch her granddaughter, Raunora Westcott, play in Scotties Tournament of Hearts.

Mime was an avid curling fan and travelled the world watching the sport. She's pictured here with her son Ron's curling jacket and medal. (Submitted by Ron Westcott)

Part of longevity study

Mime leaves behind 15 grandchildren and 28 great-grandchildren. Her first great-great grandchild is due later this year.

About 15 years ago, she became involved in a longevity study through the Boston Medical Centre, along with two of her siblings, who were also centenarians. 

"One of the things that the scientists say is that Mom, and others like her, have won the gene lottery," said Rae.

Mime was part of a longevity study through the Boston Medical Centre, along with two of her siblings, who were also centenarians. (Submitted by Ron Westcott)

He recalled earlier this year, his mother said she felt like she was just 60.

"She was fragile in terms of mobility, but she had no diseases at all, she took no medication — not one prescription drug her whole life," said Rae.

Mime lived a healthy lifestyle, her sons say. She never smoked, wasn't overweight and drank only socially. 

She was often asked what the secret to a long life is.

"One of her common replies to that was, 'Well, I don't worry too much and I'm nice to people,' and that kind of sums up who she was," said Rae.

"She had a bit of a good wit too, a little sarcastic wit, so she could put you in your place if you needed it."

WATCH | Family remembers supercentenarian Jemima (Mime) Westcott:

Family remembers Manitoba woman who lived to 111

4 hours ago

Duration 2:49

A woman who may have been Manitoba’s oldest resident, passed away last month, at the ripe old age of 111. Jemima Westcott — who went by Mime — is one of few Canadian supercentenarians, having not only lived past her 100th birthday, but past her 110th.

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