KURT LANGMANN PHOTO Alice Utas celebrated her 95th birthday by working at Fruit Basket farm picking baskets of blueberries.

Bevy of remarkable birthdays celebrated in Aldergrove

Maudie MacPherson (age 101), Vera Banner (91) and Alice Utas (95)

Three Aldergrove friends marked remarkable birthdays on August 16, with one a centenarian and the other two being nonagenarians.

The milestones were celebrated by Maudie McPherson, who reached her 101st birthday that day, and Alice Utas and Vera Banner, who reached their 95th and 91st birthdays, respectively, that same day.

And while each of the longtime Aldergrove residents have varying degrees of health challenges and fitness, all three ladies share sound minds and memories — and good humour in their golden years.

Family and friends turned out for the two parties held in commemoration, with MacPherson and Banner the guests of honor at the Aldergrove Veterans and Seniors Society hall in downtown Aldergrove, while Utas was feted at the Fruit Basket farm on Lefeuvre Road.

MacPherson, originally from Merryfield, Saskatchewan, first came to Aldergrove in 1978 with her late husband Hughie. Readers may recall that she was the seniors’ reporter for the Aldergrove Star newspaper for about 20 years, where she diligently and enthusiastically reported on the activities of the Aldergrove Old Age Pensioner’s society as well as her church, Aldergrove United.

MacPherson continued to live on her own at her Aldergrove condo up until last September when she suffered a heart attack. At that time, her son Ken and daughter Karen helped her move to a care home in Surrey.

Before that MacPherson became fast friends with her neighbour Vera Banner, who would drive the two on excursions, and accompany her to the lunches and games at the Aldergrove Veterans and Seniors Hall as well as the OAP Hall.

Banner still lives on her own in the Aldergrove area and remains as active as she is able.

Both MacPherson and Banner credit their longevity to maintaining an active social life, interacting with people as much as possible, despite the health challenges they have faced in recent years.

Langley MP Mark Warawa attended to party to present MacPherson with a congratulatory certificate from the federal government.

Warawa joked that the House of Commons Centre Block was built the same year as MacPherson’s birth and should have been named after her “in honour of the little girl who was just born.” He added that the Centre Block recently “had to close, it was worn out, while Maudie is still going strong, nobody is shutting her down.”

Along with family many of MacPherson’s and Banner’s old friends attended, including Hazel Suddaby, who turns 100 this December, Lorraine Verboom and Dorothy Ferguson.

MacPherson’s old friend Alice Utas was unable to attend as she was the guest of honour at the Fruit Basket farm, where she continues to be one of the top blueberry pickers in their employ.

Born on a farm in Chipman, Alberta, Utas and her late husband Harold retired in Aldergrove’s Twin Firs condos in 1986, and became fast friends with MacPherson as both attended the Aldergrove United Church as well as the Aldergrove OAP activities.

While the Utas couple lived in a New Westminster heritage house (built 1912) for 32 years, she remains a “farm girl” and for the past six years has been one of the top blueberry pickers at the Fruit Basket, operated by the de Jager family.

“I picked fruit for many years for the Anderson family and after they passed away my friend Diane Danvers invited me to come pick at de Jager’s farm. I filled my u-pick baskets so quickly that Wilhelmina (de Jager) asked me if I wanted a job picking for them, and so here I am six years later.”

Utas, who still drives her own car, works here six days a week and seven hours daily, for the season from July 18 to the end of August, picking as much as 30 pounds daily. She credits this along with activities like gardening and walking with keeping her in good health.

The Fruit Basket hosted a birthday party for Utas, attended by her daughter Bonny and fellow pickers. Four of the pickers, Guatemalan labourers Magda, Johanna, Joycie and Sarah serenaded Utas with a traditional song before the guests dug into the tasty luncheon and cake prepared for Utas by de Jager.


KURT LANGMANN PHOTO Alice Utas, 95, sits next to her daughter Bonny at the birthday bash.

KURT LANGMANN PHOTO Four of her fellow pickers, Guatemalan labourers Magda, Johanna, Joycie and Sarah serenaded Alice Utas with a traditional song before the guests dug into the tasty luncheon and cake prepared for Utas by de Jager.

KURT LANGMANN PHOTO MP Mark Warawa presents Maudie MacPherson with certificate honouring her 101st birthday. Vera Banner, 91, smiles in the background, next to Warawa’s shoulder.

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