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This article was published 26/1/2010 (3681 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
WINKLER — When Elizabeth Buhler was born Queen Victoria ruled England, the Czar led Russia, the Boer War broke out and Manitoba was 29 years old.
Buhler — the oldest living Canadian still living in Canada — is just 12 days shy of celebrating her 111th birthday.
Buhler has lived in three centuries — and two millenniums for that matter.
She's in select company as a supercentenarian — someone who has reached the age of at least 110.
According to Wikipedia, only one Canadian, Mary Josephine Ray, is older, having been born on May 17, 1895, in Prince Edward Island. But Ray now lives in New Hampshire and is seen on some lists as the oldest living American — and oldest person in North America.
Buhler is just seven days older than another Ukrainian-born supercentenarian, Pearl Lutzko of Saskatchewan, who was born on Feb. 15, 1899.
Buhler's age cannot be verified because her family says all birth records were destroyed during the years Josef Stalin was leader of the Soviet Union. But the family says Buhler always said she was born in Ukraine on Feb. 8, 1899.
She was just weeks shy of giving birth to her first child, Isaac, when she and her husband, who she married on Sept. 7, 1924 in Russia, her parents and several other family members, uprooted and left for a new life in Canada in 1925.
Buhler's secret to longevity?
"Exercise," said her 80-year-old daughter, Lena Pranke, noting her mother had several plaques recognizing she'd been the oldest participant in a fundraiser involving a 10- kilometre walk.
"And good solid food," her 76-year-old daughter, Mary Dyck, said. "Her faith in God has been there all along."
Buhler had a hard life on their farm south of Winkler near the American border, which she left with her husband in 1956, to allow their son to work it. They raised a son and five daughters on the farm and the couple moved to a house in Winkler where they took in boarders. Her husband died at 69.
"They were married 43 years so she has been a widow almost as long as she was married," her 74-year-old daughter, Justina Suderman, the baby in the family, said.
Today, when she has a good day in the Salem Home where she lives, Buhler can sing hymns she learned as a child, laugh, and have conversations with people. Recently, she insisted that she wanted to remarry, but the family talked her out of it, noting there were no males in the seniors' residence old enough for her without robbing the cradle.
On a not-so-good day, Buhler is hard to wake up and difficult to get a response from.
There were times when Buhler might not have come anywhere close to living to 111.
The first time was during the Russian Revolution when anarchists came intent on pillaging her house and killing the family. Buhler, whose maiden name was Unger, picked up a guitar and began singing until the commander ordered his men to leave and not steal anything.
The next time was when she was giving birth to her final child. The baby turned out to be a breech birth and, even though she was in a hospital for the first time, the family says because the nurse was out on a date and the doctor wasn't around, the baby died, nearly taking Buhler with him.
Justina said given her age, Buhler's sight is almost gone, except for seeing objects in front of her, and she needs a hearing aid. She has to be pushed around in a wheelchair.
To help celebrate her birthday, Buhler has already received certificates from Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean.
Oldest living Canadian: Mary Josephine Ray, born May 17, 1895, in Prince Edward Island.
Oldest living Canadian living in Canada:
Elizabeth Buhler, born Feb. 8, 1899.
Oldest Canadian ever:
Marie-Louise Meilleur, 117 years, 230 days old when she died in Quebec on April 16, 1998.
Oldest Manitoban ever:
Buhler. The oldest had been Mary Ann Scoles, who died on July 23, 2007, at 110 years, 210 days.
Oldest person living in the world today:
Kama Chinen, of Japan, who was born on May 10, 1895, and is 114 years old.
Oldest person ever: Jeanne Calment, of France, died at age 122 years, 164 days on Aug. 4, 1997.
— Source: Wikipedia
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.