Margaret Romans, who lives at the Château Pierrefonds seniors residence in Montreal’s West Island, is part of an elite club.
After all, not too many of us can brag about being a supercentenarian.
Romans, who was born in Latvia in 1912 and moved to Montreal in 1947, celebrated her 111th birthday on Thursday surrounded by friends and family.
It’s something she says she was looking forward to and stressed how important that is.
“There’s always something that you want to look forward to,” she said.
Like any good party, there were speeches, a poetry reading and lots of reminiscing followed by some cake.
Still very spry, Romans, with a little help from her grand-niece Anne Lockwell, stood up and blew out the candles on her cake.
When asked to share her favourite memory, Romans paused for a moment to think.
She spoke of her love of art and how her travels to Italy had left a particular impression.
She explained how she felt a real connection to the great artists by viewing their original artwork.
“That went very much to my heart,” she said.
When she settled in Montreal with her husband Heinrich Romans, she began teaching art at the YMCA, while Heinrich worked as an engineer.
Her passion for teaching and learning are still very much alive.
“I liked to teach and I’ve found that I don’t stress myself. I like to look at my students and they are so eager and I feel like I love them all,” she said of her career.
She also had some advice for the new generation.
“I always say: ‘learn learn learn.”
She added it’s important to know yourself.
“Learn what you like with your heart , then you will feel like you have a pleasure … and you don’t feel like you are working,” she said.
Despite have lived more lifetimes than most, Romans still has some things she says she would have liked to accomplish.
“I wanted to study philosophy,” she said with a chuckle. “I would have liked two years to live in Greece to study all the history; that would have been very nice.”
Asked about the secret to her longevity, Romans, said she had no idea.
“It just happened,” she said.
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And while she may not have divulged how to live a long life, Romans did share words of wisdom on how to live a good life — a life of kindness.
“I like to share that people love each other and be interested in the other person,” she said.
“If you find some strangers arriving you would like to think that you are good to them and that you feel that they belong because they are very lonely.”