Celebrating 100 years with Gertrude Stockley

Karen Wells & Pam Snow editor@pilotnl.ca
Published on March 7, 2012
Mrs. Stockley’s daughter Joan Boyd helped her cut one of the many birthday cakes at the birthday get together held at Bayside Manor.
Pam Snow

SUMMERFORD  - There was no shortage of birthday wishes as Gertrude Stockley celebrated her 100th birthday.

Born on Feb. 20, 1912, as Gertrude Elliott, Mrs. Stockley is thought to be the first person from what was Farmer's Arm and is now Summerford to celebrate the milestone birthday.

Her birthday celebration included an open house for friends and family to share their birthday wishes. A crowded Summerford Community Centre was one indicator of how Mrs. Stockley has been a part of the lives of so many people over the years.

There was even a group of students from New World Island Academy who visited the celebration. According to Mrs. Stockley's grandson Rod Stockley, the children were interested to meet someone who was turning 100.

Following the open house family members continued the celebration with a dinner, followed by a dance. It was a reunion of sorts where some family who hadn't seen each other in a while were able to reconnect. Another birthday celebration was also held at Bayside Manor in Brown's Arm where Mrs. Stockley currently resides.


Early on

The Pilot spoke with Rod Stockley and his father Roy Stockley and their grandmother and mother (respectively), reflecting on a life that so far has spanned a century. She is the second youngest of nine children, the only one living.

As her birth certificate indicates, Mrs. Stockley was born in Farmer's Arm. Roy said she went to school, but to get there she had to row across the harbour on the south side to the schoolhouse on the north side. It was when she was around nine-years-old that she went to Exploit's Island to help her sister raise her family.

"In between she would get some schooling," he said. "It was pretty difficult, but she did manage.

"She was an avid reader. She has read all her life and still enjoys reading now."

When she was 17 or 18-years-old she married Herbert Stockley around 1929 or 30. He was also from New World Island. They lived at Strong's Island in Farmer's Arm, where they had five children - Roy, Joan, Marina, Pleaman and Marg. Pleaman and Marg have since passed away.

She is an industrious woman with a knack for knitting. Not only did she knit. She also raised sheep, sheared them and processed the material from start to finish for the wool to make those clothing items for her family. Roy still has his mother's spinning wheel, a treasured family heirloom.

He also recalls his mother singing. Years ago, before people had television or radio in their homes, people would gather at each other's home where they would make their own entertainment.

"She was often asked to sing during those times," he said. "She would sit back and sing war songs and love ballads."

Throughout her life, Mrs. Stockley has also been a follower of the monarchy, something she has always done with keen interest through a collection of books and photos on the Royal Family. One of her prized certificates wishing her a Happy Birthday was from Queen Elizabeth.

During the family dinner Rod said one of the family members spoke of his grandmother as a "free spirit".

"The grandchildren loved to visit her," Rod said. "She would always have a chocolate cake waiting when they arrived and there would always be bread baking in her home."

Rod also recalls her as being something of a practical joker. Something that has carried through to today. During the taking of a photo with Rod's family and Mrs. Stockley, she said to him, "I've got a mind to stick my tongue out for the picture."

"So we all did just that, but she didn't," he said. "So that's a bit of her prankster personality."

He also recalled on a visit with her a couple of years ago - before she was walking with a cane full-time - that she had been introduced to the fact that she was going to need to use a cane. As they went to get a cup of tea in the cafeteria at Bayside Manor, Mrs. Stockley said she had to go back to her room to get something.

"She grabbed the cane and told me they had told her she had to take it wherever she went," he recalled. "So she tucked it under her arm and went on down the hall, saying it was the stupidest thing ever, and now she had to ‘Drag this where ever I go', even though she wasn't using it at that point."     

Mrs. Stockley is still quite capable of taking care of herself. It was in August of 2008 that she moved to Bayside Manor, but up until that point she was living by herself, cooking and cleaning for herself.

Bayside Manor owner/operator Rhonda Simms noted that Mrs. Stockley is their first resident to reach the 100th birthday mark. Upon moving there the staff immediately fell in love with her.

"She has a great sense of humour," said Ms. Simms. "She's very witty and charming.

"She is friendly, and outgoing individual who loves to laugh and tell a joke. We wish her many more years of happiness with us at Bayside Manor."

As for the fact that his grandmother has turned 100, Rod wishes her as many years as possible.

Roy joins in those wishes. He was so pleased so many friends and family could join in the celebration. Just what his mother thought of all the fuss for her birthday?

"She would probably think it was stuff and nonsense," he said. "She was never one much really for big ado's.

"She would think it's a lot of fuss and bother over her, and she probably wonders what's the big deal. She was like, what's 100 years - everyone can do this."

The Pilot joins in wishing Gertrude Stockley a very Happy 100th Birthday.