104 and sharp as a tack

Mark Vaughan-Jackson
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Five generations celebrate Bonavista woman’s birthday

A grand lady of this province and one of its oldest residents, Amy Hookey, celebrated her 104th birthday in style on Nov. 19.

Five generations of the Hookey family celebrated with matriarch Amy Hookey on her 104th birthday Nov. 19. (Back row, from left): son Austin, grandson Perry, Mrs. Hookey (holding her youngest great-great-granddaughter, six-month-old Grace; and great-great-grandson Devon (Grace’s dad).
— Photo courtesy of the Hookey family

A longtime resident of Champney’s West, she and her husband, Alonzo, (known affectionately as “Lon”), shared a lifetime together.

They had been married for 66 years when Lon died in 2001 at age 96.

Amy Hookey, then in her early 90s, continued to live alone in the family home for many years.

There were few luxuries, and she lived a very simple life, with no indoor plumbing and a wood stove for cooking, but that was by choice.

“Used to burn coal first,” she said last week, “until Mifflin’s (in Catalina) stopped selling it. Then we burned wood.”

Above her bed in Bonavista’s Golden Heights Manor is a photo of her bringing in an armload of wood.

Her home, the two-storey saltbox she and Lon lived in from the time they were married, stands today just as she left it, with everything in place. She said if her son is looking for a particular item there, she can tell him exactly where it is.

After Lon’s death, her family persuaded her to spend the winter with her son, Austin, who lived nearby. But she did not go willingly, they say, and she usually asked to hang on until Christmas if she could.

Unfortunately, she took a fall a couple of years ago and required hospitalization. Because she eventually became unable to walk, she moved to Golden Heights Manor, a  the long-term care facility.

On her birthday, she sat regally in her chair, welcoming all visitors with a smile.

It was celebration No 2, as five generations of her immediate family held a get-together at the manor on the previous Saturday, with music provided by her  son Austin, grandson Perry and great-grandson Devon. Even a little great-great-granddaughter danced around, much to her delight.

She and Lon had two sons, each of whom had three children, with one of them deceased. Currently, she has 10 great-grandchildren and seven great-great-grandchildren, many of whom live close by and visit often.

With a memory as sharp as a tack, Hookey can tell you stories from her first day at kindergarten.

She still likes to read, although she admits her eyesight is failing and she needs bigger print these days.

Her biggest regret is not being able to walk, but she’s cheerful just the same. Looking around at her many gifts, cards, cakes and flowers, she says she’d like to write everyone thank you notes but her hand is too weak. She makes sure, though, that everyone who visits gets a piece or two of cake and a glass of Purity syrup.

She and her roommate, Melvie Hart, share a wonderful view of Bonavista harbour. Melvie’s daughter, Dallas, recalls how last summer, Hookey asked to have both beds moved near the window so they could watch the fireworks during a community celebration.

Family and friends are amazed with her good health. She sits in her chair every day.

“I never gets a cold,” she said, though she does recall having the measles at age 44.

When asked if she ever smoked or drank, “No indeed,” she said, but if she had the sniffles, she’d mix a bit of brandy or rum with hot water as a cure.

One friend said they believe she can remember everything, except the day she was born.

Born in Champney’s East, she jokes with a twinkle in her eye that she was a “Nurse’’ for 25 years until she married Lon on Dec. 27, 1935 — Nurse was her maiden name.

Prior to marriage, she spent five years in St. John’s, employed as a cook by a well-to-do family in the city’s west end. She easily recalls the grand four-storey house and how a telephone was used to relay messages from one floor to the other.

“You didn’t just tell them when dinner was ready,” she said. “There was a gong you had to ring, and was it ever loud.”

Family members reminisce about her 100th birthday, when she was still living at home. That day  visitors were greeted with the smell of her fresh bread, made from scratch and baked in her wood stove.

Manor staff quipped that they couldn’t serenade her with the familiar birthday song, “We hope you live to be a hundred,” cause she’s gone past that.

They did say they hope she reaches 110.

To that, she just smiles and says, “Well, I think I’ll be here for another year.”

The Packet

Geographic location: Bonavista, Catalina, Dallas

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