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Century-old Alberta sisters pass love and family ties down generations

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WATCH: Mildred Berry is 105. Her sister Roena Johnson is 101. Together, they're setting an example of family connection and tradition even when the pandemic has kept them physically apart. Kendra Slugoski has their story – Nov 18, 2021

Mildred Berry is still sharp as a tack.

The Edmonton, Alta., woman rattled off her birthday without hesitation: Nov. 8, 1916.

That’s right. She just turned 105.

“Shocking, isn’t it?” Berry said with a laugh.

“I never thought I’d reach 100. No, I never did.”

Mildred Berry celebrating her 105 birthday on November 8, 2021.
Mildred Berry celebrating her 105 birthday on November 8, 2021. Supplied

Even more remarkable? Her younger sister, Roena Johnson, just passed the century milestone too. She is 101.

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“Oh yeah, my sister, she’s four years younger,” Berry said. “We were always very close. Our whole family was.”

Read more: Second World War vet gets Snowbirds flyby for his 100th birthday

The sisters live a couple of provinces apart but after all these years, they have still stayed in touch. They talk on the phone nearly every day.

“Sometimes if I get some extra news or something in my head, I’ll phone her twice,” Berry said.

“We get along very, very well. We always did.”

Their hearing may have weakened, but the sisterly bond between the two is as strong as ever.

Mildred Berry and her younger sister, Roena Johnson.
Mildred Berry and her younger sister, Roena Johnson. Supplied

From her seniors home suite in Winnipeg, Man., Johnson’s daughter, Bev McNeill, asked her mother questions on behalf of Global News.

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“What do you talk about?” asked McNeill, of her phone calls to her sister.

“The weather, what we did when we were growing up,” Johnson replied. “All that kind of stuff. Living at home on the farm.”

Read more: N.B. man believed to be oldest Canadian-born man flooded with birthday cards

Like her older sister, Johnson had no trouble recalling dates and events from her childhood. She remembered where she went to school and the names of her horses.

“Babe and Doll.”

Johnson also didn’t forget how her sister always took care of her when they were young.

“She used to make sure we cleaned out our ears, kept our room clean. She did everything!

“Our mother was sick a lot and couldn’t do a lot of things for us,” recalled Johnson, “so Mildred took over.”

There was also a middle sister, Ella. She moved to Arizona and passed away a few years ago. She was in her 90s.

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The Hunt sisters riding to school. Supplied
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The Hunt sisters from left to right. Mildred, Roena and Ella. Supplied
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Mildred Hunt graduating from bible college. Supplied

The past pandemic years have been tough on the two sisters.

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Richelle Muth, Berry’s granddaughter, said isolation and quarantines in their seniors homes was difficult, making their chats over the phone all the more important.

“It does keep their spirits up because the last couple of years have been hard for both of them.”

Muth said her grandmother’s bond with her own daughter and son, her grandchildren and great-grandchildren has modeled the importance of family connections.

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Mildred and Benson Berry on their wedding day. Supplied
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Mildred and Benson Berry passed down the importance of family connections. Supplied

“It’s been a generational thing and I think it started with grandma and grandpa and just that foundation they set,” said Muth.

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“Do we always get along? Not always, but we most of the time do, and love hanging out with one another.

“She’s just been a great influence throughout all of our lives.”

They last time the elderly sisters saw each other in person was five years ago at Berry’s 100th birthday celebration.

Roena Johnson celebrating Mildred’s 100th birthday.
Roena Johnson celebrating Mildred’s 100th birthday. Supplied

As time ticked on, they still kept their wits and sense of humour.

“They laugh when you hear them together,” Muth said with a smile.

“They’ll tease one another, they’ll laugh, they’ll talk about the old days.”

When asked if she loved her sister, Johnson replied: “I do love my sister.

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“She was a bit bossy. Yeah, she was bossy.”

Berry doesn’t dispute that, adding with a chuckle: “Yeah, they thought I was pretty bossy. They didn’t like me bossing them very much so I tried to be careful.”

As the two wrapped up a short mid-morning call over the phone, Berry reassured her younger sister they’d talk again soon.

“I’ll phone you tonight.”

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