| Jun 23, 2011

Photos: Jean Wannamaker

Over 100 friends and family representing five generations gathered at the community centre in Flinton to celebrate Jean Wannamaker’s 100th birthday. Displays of photos and a written history of Jean's family life and work history were all on display for celebrants to get a further glimpse into the century-long life that Jean has spent on this planet.

Jean is described by those who know her best as caring, loving, and feisty. That last attribute is perhaps best demonstrated by the fact that she purchased the Northbrook store at an auction, unbeknownst to her husband Clayton, and ran it from 1958 until 1974.

Though Jean has worked at numerous occupations throughout her long life as a maid, cook, and store owner, she says that by far her most rewarding undertaking and life-long joy has been her family. She feels blessed by them and is truly thankful for them.

A mother of five, grandmother of 15, great grandmother of 22.5 and great great grandmother of one, Jean continues to live a happy, healthy and active life. She has beaten two bouts of breast cancer, the first of which was diagnosed when she was 91, and she continues to remain mobile and independent despite recently receiving a pacemaker. She is also totally free of arthritis, something that continues to amaze her family doctor. Jean attributes that to her 30-year-old habit of consuming a few gin-soaked raisins every evening - plus always aiming to “eat right, sleep right and be right.”

Jean McDiarmaid was born in Bolter, Ont. Her first job at the age of 16, was working as a maid while she took cooking classes at night. At the age of 18, she met her beloved husband, Clayton Wannamaker, on a blind date and they were married on September 25, 1933 at Clayton’s parents’ farm in Coe Hill. The couple had five children, Lee, Don, Amy, Laurence and Jackie, and eventually settled in Northbrook in 1958, the same year that Jean bought the store that she ran for 15 years.

Sadly, Clayton passed away suddenly in 1962, one of three tragedies that she has endured. The second was the death of her eldest grandson Marty and most recently the loss of her son Laurence in 2010. Jean now resides with her loving daughter-in-law, Germaine, who regards her both as a mother, and a friend. Described by those who know and love her as “the cornerstone of her family, a strong and beautiful person with a big spirit and big sense of humour”, and whom I am told still enjoys a cold beer at the end of a day, Jean Wannamaker continues to inspire. And rightly so.

She was presented with no less than six official birthday wishes from the prime minister, governor general, premier of Ontario, and others.

Jean remains most grateful for the love and support of those who joined her in Flinton and who continue to help her to celebrate a happy, productive and love-filled life every day.


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