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Lewisporte woman celebrates 100th birthday by distance

Myrtle Hoddinott was born in 1920 in the Indian Islands in Notre Dame Bay. Contributed photo
Myrtle Hoddinott was born in 1920 in the Indian Islands in Notre Dame Bay. - Contributed

Myrtle Hoddinott fête at workers and fellow guests at Pleasantview Manor


Myrtle Hoddinott met a billionaire once.

The meeting was unexpected and involved a private helicopter and a conversation involving her hometown of Perry’s Island in Notre Dame Bay.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Igor, her niece, Irene Benoit, received an email from Canadian fish tycoon John Risley. His private yacht was anchored off Perry’s Island and he asked for the chance to meet with Hoddinott and her sister, Armorel.

His then-wife, Judy McDonald, had relatives from the same islands, but knew nothing of their story. There was hope Hoddinott and Armorel, who are from Perry’s Island, could help fill in some of those blanks.

This picture says it all! You made her day so special! We want to say a big thank you to all of Aunt Myrtle Hoddinott’s...

Posted by Pleasantview Manor on Saturday, May 16, 2020

It is not every day you get a request to meet with a billionaire and the decision was made to arrange the meeting. Benoit’s mother, Jean, her partner, Glen, her sister and herself were also going to make the trip with them.

With travel into Lewisporte restricted because of storm damage, it was arranged after some trepidation that they would be picked via private helicopter and flown to the yacht.

The story of Hoddinott, Risley and their meeting aboard that yacht is just one of the things Hoddinott has seen in her time.

“(Hoddinott) is a great storyteller,” said Benoit.

On April 15, Hoddinott celebrated her 100th birthday at the Pleasantview Manor in Lewisporte.

Like any birthday, there were decorations, festive hats and, of course, an extra big cake for the occasion.

What was different was how she celebrated her birthday. The regulations around the COVID-19 pandemic meant Hoddinott’s friends at the home would need to be socially distant, and there was no chance her family could attend.

Hoddinott’s daughter, Lorraine Walker, and her husband spend their summers in Lewisporte and are always present for Hoddinott's birthday. This year, the extended family were all expected home for the big day.

Welcome to Myrtle Hoddinott’s 100th virtual Birthday Celebration, live here at Pleasantview Manor! Happy 100th Birthday Aunt Myrtle! 💯💐🥳

Posted by Pleasantview Manor on Friday, May 15, 2020

“It was really hard not being there,” Walker said from her home in Surrey, B.C. “(Mom) is amazing.”

Despite these challenges, the family knew the group at Pleasantville Manor would make the best of it for their matriarch.

There were video greetings from all over and some virtual entertainment from local musician Glen Fudge, and the love was felt.

“It was wonderful,” said Benoit, who watched the celebration on her break from work. “We knew Pleasantview would give the best party possible, and they did.

“We were delighted for (Hoddinott).”

Here’s Glen Fudge serenading Aunt Myrtle Hoddinott with a special song sent to her by video for her 100th Virtual Birthday Celebration! Glen and Myrtle sang this song together for her 90th Birthday! 💯🥳

Posted by Pleasantview Manor on Saturday, May 16, 2020

Born a century earlier on the Indian Islands in Notre Dame Bay on April 16, Hoddinott and her three siblings grew up on Perry’s Island.

Their time was spent exploring their home and picking berries, amidst other leisures. Her dad owned a schooner and spent some time on the Labrador.

Perry’s Island was not a place to find wood for the winter, and when the bay froze over, they walked to Fogo Island and brought back lumber.

Benoit remembers a story her aunt would tell about the night she and her sister stayed the night with an American on the island.

The people of Fogo were having a dance one weekend. Hoddinott and her sister decided they were going to the event, making the walk along the ice.

When it was over, they needed to find somewhere to stay the night before heading home. They found their refuge with Ms. Anthony, a classically trained pianist from New York.

There, Hoddinott and her sister sat and watched her play the piano all night.

Perhaps some of what she heard that night was some of what Hoddinott played on her birthday.

A talented self-taught pianist, Walker would also think her mother was making that part up when her mother would play and sing as Walker grew.

“(Hoddinott) didn’t play in the church, but she could have,” said Walker.

Posted by Pleasantview Manor on Saturday, May 16, 2020

Hoddinott married and had two children on Perry’s Island before moving to Lewisporte in the early 1950s.

She’s known as a master seamstress by those who know her and it is no trouble for her to crochet a quilt, some boots or another item.

“She was always a maker of things,” said Benoit.

During Hoddinott’s birthday party, she crossed paths with Risley again.

He was one of several people who sent birthday greetings for the province’s newest centenarian.

“It was fantastic,” said Walker.

Nicholas Mercer is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering Central Newfoundland for Saltwire Network.

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