The other day Mary Sanderson popped her head into The Star’s office on one of her regular walkabouts in the community. The reason? She wanted to invite me, “another Aldergrove old-timer,” to her 100th birthday party.
That gave me a bit of a chuckle, as I am getting up there but I’m still young enough to be one of her grandchildren. But that’s Mary for you; endearing and funny as all get-up.
Perhaps it’s her Irish blood, as she was the first-born of seven to Irish immigrants Tom and Maria Lockhart. The couple came to Colberg, Ontario just over 100 years ago and soon after Mary arrived the young family settled near Regina, Saskatchewan.
Or perhaps it’s her long history in Aldergrove. Mary and husband George Sanderson met in the Prairies and kept moving west until they found their perfect patch of farmland in Aldergrove in 1944.
George and Mary raised their three children, Shirley, Stewart and Heather, here in Aldergrove. George worked as a surveyor for the highways department for many years, while Mary worked just shy of 20 years as a clerk at Otter Co-op before retiring, only to spend the next 25 years as a volunteer at the Aldergrove Seniors Thrift Store.
“I liked Aldergrove from the very beginning,” said Mary. “Our kids went to school here and they liked it too.”
Then again, it could be her human relations skills that she nurtured from her early years as a store clerk and shopkeeper that makes her such a charmer to all who know her.
George was certainly smitten by the tiny dynamo we know as Mary. He had been working on the railroad in northern Saskatchewan before taking up a job at the same store Mary worked at. The couple got married and as Mary says, “The wages were so darned small that it took two of us to feed the two of us. Then we took a trip to Banff to see what that was like and we said we’ve got to go further to see what the coast was like.”
The couple stopped in Trail for eight years while George worked in the smelter and the couple ran a grocery store on the side for eight years. They finally stopped moving west when they settled on their 272 Street acreage in Aldergrove 67 years ago.
George succumbed to a heart attack in 1967 before he could realize their dream of turning their property into a garden nursery, but Mary kept herself active as a member of the Aldergrove Old Age Pensioners Organization and spearheaded its offshoot, the Seniors Thrift Store.
This store, operated solely by Mary’s merry band of volunteers for about 25 years, contributed mightily to a myriad of charitable causes and made a real difference in many lives. Bursaries to local students were handed out every year, cheques were issued to non-profit societies from across the spectrum, and money and goods were also routinely doled out to families here who were struggling.
But Mary finally ran out of steam a few years back and handed over the store’s operations to Aldergrove Neighbourhood Services (it has since been handed over to the Salvation Army and continues to operate as the Salmart on 272 Street).
“It was a good store; people today still tell me they were pleased with the way we looked after it and the community,” said Mary.
Mary still lives on her own in an apartment in Aldergrove and only recently gave up her driver’s licence. Her mind and body are still sound, although she now has to use a walker to get around on her regular and brisk strolls here.
She always was a tiny lady, proving the old adage that good things truly do come in small packages.
Mary’s spirit of community service will be celebrated this Saturday, August 27, 1 p.m. at her 100th birthday luncheon at the Aldergrove OAPO Hall. Her two surviving children, Heather and Shirley, and Mary’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren will attend, as will Star seniors’ correspondent Maudie MacPherson and many other old friends in the community (note that the birthday tea is by invitation only, as the hall has limited capacity of 120).
However, before hanging up the phone Mary gets one more dig in.
“Your daughter, the one that helps the seniors over at Lion’s Grove, I hope she can come too,” says Mary.
“You mean my wife, Sylvia?” I respond.
“That’s right, Sylvia, that’s her name,” Mary replies, mischievously.
We wouldn’t miss it for the world, Mary. Happy birthday.