George McLagen married Betty Martin on July 22, 1940. Attending was also her parents, on the right. (McLagen family/Special to the Langley Advance Times)

Retired Langley minister ponders turning 100 years old

Betty McLagen was born Feb. 28, 1922 and was recently feted by family and neighbours

“Betty McLagen, this is your life.”

Residents and staff at Avalon Gardens honoured Betty’s 100th birthday with their own variation of the vintage TV show on Tuesday, March 1.

Born in Scotland on Feb. 28, 1922, Betty Martin was the youngest of six children who became an ordained minister at the age of 60.

Her father had travelled the world with the British army which wanted him to stay and work in India. But he opted to return to the United Kingdom. Her family moved to Canada when she was about six.

She was raised to be kind, independent and strong. At the age of 12, she was taught to drive a car by her dad. She’s always owned her own vehicle, even in decades past when it wasn’t common for women. She was raised to think for herself and make decision about her own life.

“There was none of that idea floating around in our house,” she said about traditional gender roles.

As a young woman, she went to work in a tailor shop in Montreal sewing fancy dresses, suits, coats and hats and met the young man who would become her husband. She married George McLagen July 22, 1940.

George was sent oversees during the Second World War and would not see Betty nor their son, George, born in 1941, for five years.

During this time Betty worked as a lay person in her church holding many positions just to help out, during these difficult years.

A few months prior to the end of the war in 1945, George was injured and returned home. This was a difficult time in their lives.

In 1946, their first daughter was born, Diana Barbara.

Then 1948, daughter number two arrived. They named her Brenda Gail Ann.

And then in 1950 daughter number three, Linda Belle, arrived.

As the kids were growing up, George developed a heart condition and so Betty went to work as a home and industry teacher. She taught sewing (which she knew very well), basket weaving (not so well), and woodworking (a skill she knew nothing about and had to learn fast).

George and Betty set off on a trip across Canada, just the two of them. They wanted to attend a military reunion in Victoria, and they lived in Montreal. So George spruced up a VW van and off they went. Betty would cherish the fantastic memories from that trip which was only a few months before she lost him.

In 1978 George had a fatal heart attack. At the age of 56, she was a widow.

She decided it was the right time to continue her post-secondary studies in divinity and obtained her masters degree from McGill. Betty took another year of schooling and was ordained a Presbyterian minister.

“I wanted to go into active ministry,” she said.

McLagen would end up being something of a troubleshooter in the church, sent to communities to get churches back on track.

Her first church was in Armstrong, then it was off to Kerrisdale before heading north to Prince George.

She settled in Langley back in the 1990s and was assigned the church at Bradner which, under her guidance, went from having a congregation of about five to more than 70. At 89, Betty McLagen retired.

Although Betty had formally retired, she still performed the occasional celebration of life, funeral or wedding, including at her grandniece’s nuptials.

Through her faith, she’s been able to travel the world for work and pleasure, and do missions work in varied settings, yet she endured surprisingly little sexism though she was a minister during an era when it was uncommon for women. There was only one person who did not accept her as an ordained leader.

Betty spent almost 30 years living in Murrayville, just down the street from Avalon Gardens, where she moved to in early December 2021.

Betty admits that she does miss going to church since the COVID-19 pandemic but was able to participate via technology.

“One day we’ll be back, but I don’t think it’s here yet,” she said.

She has been able to maintain other key activities she enjoys, namely daily walking. When the weather allows, she goes walking for 30 to 60 minutes around the neighbourhood.

All those years ago in Scotland, little Betty, plagued by whooping cough, didn’t seem like the kind to have such a long and healthy life.

“Up until I was seven, I was a sick child,” she explained.

But she’s spent a life in moderation, not over-indulging, staying active and staying involved, and it has paid off. She’s on no medications.

“I have neither ache nor pain in any part of my body,” Betty added.

.


Have a story tip? Email: heather.colpitts@langleyadvancetimes.com

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Seniors

 

Betty McLagen received many flowers and cards for her 100th birthday. She was born Feb. 28, 1922. (Heather Colpitts/Special to the Langley Advance Times)

Betty McLagen received many flowers and cards for her 100th birthday. She was born Feb. 28, 1922. (Heather Colpitts/Special to the Langley Advance Times)

Betty McLagen has cherished memories for a century of living. She turned 100 on Feb. 28, 2022. (Heather Colpitts/Langley Advance Times)

Betty McLagen has cherished memories for a century of living. She turned 100 on Feb. 28, 2022. (Heather Colpitts/Langley Advance Times)

After the death of her husband, George, Betty McLagen became an ordained minister. (McLagen family/Special to the Langley Advance Times)

After the death of her husband, George, Betty McLagen became an ordained minister. (McLagen family/Special to the Langley Advance Times)

Betty McLagen and family took a four generations photo, including son Steve, grandson Doug, and twins Maya and Amara. (McLagen family/Special to the Langley Advance Times)

Betty McLagen and family took a four generations photo, including son Steve, grandson Doug, and twins Maya and Amara. (McLagen family/Special to the Langley Advance Times)

Betty McLagen was the youngest of six children, including four brothers. (McLagen family/Special to the Langley Advance Times)

Betty McLagen was the youngest of six children, including four brothers. (McLagen family/Special to the Langley Advance Times)

Betty McLagen received many flowers and cards for her 100th birthday. She was born Feb. 28, 1922. (McLagen family/Special to the Langley Advance Times)

Betty McLagen received many flowers and cards for her 100th birthday. She was born Feb. 28, 1922. (McLagen family/Special to the Langley Advance Times)

Betty McLagen received many flowers and cards for her 100th birthday. She was born Feb. 28, 1922. (McLagen family/Special to the Langley Advance Times)

Betty McLagen received many flowers and cards for her 100th birthday. She was born Feb. 28, 1922. (McLagen family/Special to the Langley Advance Times)

Betty McLagen received many flowers and cards for her 100th birthday. She was born Feb. 28, 1922. (McLagen family/Special to the Langley Advance Times)

Betty McLagen received many flowers and cards for her 100th birthday. She was born Feb. 28, 1922. (McLagen family/Special to the Langley Advance Times)

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