Although the pandemic subdued her 102nd birthday last week, Audrey Lindsay has been taking it in stride.
"There’s something around the corner all of the time," the sharp centenarian said by phone at her Rotary Villas residence in Brandon during the weekend.
Lindsay was born in Saskatchewan during the waning days of the Spanish flu pandemic, and worked as a teacher during the age of the polio virus.
The COVID-19 pandemic is just another problem people have to deal with, she said.
"It’s just one thing and then another," she said. "With a lot of good times in-between. … I’m not a worry wart."
Although she retired from teaching in 1981, Lindsay developed bonds with students during her career that have persevered through the decades.
Every year, during her birthday and Christmas, former students reach out with phone calls and cards wishing her well.
"I was very fortunate in the classes I had and the districts I taught in," she said. "I was very, very happy and very fortunate."
Many of her former students have found success and scattered themselves around the world, with one former student sending Lindsay a birthday card from her Toronto home.
"Now she’s a grandmother," Lindsay said of her former student, adding with a chuckle, "Things happen!"
Despite being decades removed from her teaching career, Lindsay said she still remembers her students when they reach out and always appreciates catching up with them.
"Sometimes I break out laughing thinking about some of the things at school," she said, adding the teenaged boys were often the most enjoyable to be around.
"I liked their humour and their wit, and they have lots of it. … Teenaged boys are full of ideas."
Teaching is in her blood, she said. Her mother was a teacher, her aunts were teachers, her sisters became teachers and her daughter, Cheryl Fortin, became a teacher.
Lindsay was born in Welwyn, Sask, and grew up on a farm, which she said is "the most wonderful place in the world to be born."
They had horses they’d ride to and from school, and she considers this one of the most special times in her life.
She was the eldest of six children, only two of whom — herself and brother Clint Stewart, who lives in B.C. — are still around.
Her career in teaching started at age 19 at a rural school in Saskatchewan comprised of Hungarian students, most of whom didn’t speak a lick of English.
"They were wonderful people," she said, adding she probably learned more from them than they did from her.
She relocated to different schools before settling in Rocanville with her husband, Howard, for several years, after which they relocated to Brandon.
Lindsay taught in Brandon for 26 years, including stints in various schools, the longest of which 11 years at both J.R. Reid and Vincent Massey High School.
She said she was thrilled to spend her final year teaching alongside her daughter, who encouraged her to keep at it for another couple years so they could teach together.
Howard died at age 72 in 1994, and Fortin credits her father with getting her mother into golf in her retirement, establishing an active lifestyle that continues today.
"She still takes herself for a walk most days, either indoors or out, and enjoys people a lot," Fortin said. "She’s a very social person and was very unhappy when they were locked down so much."
Although this might have been the case, Lindsay prefers to look at the positives, including the many well-wishers hoping the best for her.
Days after her April 29 birthday, Lindsay’s phone was still ringing off the hook, with family, friends and former students (also friends) wishing her a happy birthday.
Plus, she said, the communal environment of Rotary Villas ensures she’s always around people, and is able to dine with them every day.
Hopefully, the pandemic is in the rear-view mirror by the time she hits 103 next year — a wish she holds not as much for herself as for children.
School kids having to wear masks, learn separate from each other online and physically separated by at least two metres when they are together in person has been disheartening to see, she said.
"It’s very sad. They don’t get a chance to be friends with one another anymore.
"It’s just not natural. … And I feel for them, because most kids once they reach high school — those people become friends for life."
Although not much has improved for kids for the past year as the pandemic continues to drag on, she said, "You have to be optimistic."
» Twitter: @TylerClarkeMB