Gull Island native Blanche Stockwood is rocking in a chair in her room at Luxury Estates in Carbonear.
The mid-afternoon sun is cascading over her face as she looks out her window and over the harbour. There are dozens of birthday cards stacked on the table in front of her, along with an open Bible.
"I've got a box of them," she jokes, in reference to the greeting cards.
It's a very special time for Blanche. She's about to enter an exclusive club when she turns 100 on March 16, and becomes this province's latest centenarian.
"It makes me feel wonderful," she says of the numerous birthday cards she has received.
Looking through the window, Blanche reflects on a life that has surpassed the average life expectancy of women in 2013 by 20 years.
In many ways, Blanche gives new meaning to the familiar phrase "aging gracefully," though she admits her memory is slipping a little.
"If you had've called last month, I could have filled a book," she says. "You ask me any question and I'll try to answer."
But, Blanche does a fine job of remembering on this day. For some things, Blanche has to stop and think, but for the most part information and anecdotes flow freely.
Born in 1913, Blanche has seen a lot in her 100 years in this world, and a lot has changed during her lifetime. There were two world wars, Confederation with Canada, voting privileges for women, just to name a few.
Eight months after her birth, the National Transcontinental Railway wa completed, connecting New Brunswick to Manitoba and the Liberals had just won a third straight term in Alberta.
Earlier that October, the Philadelphia Athletics had beaten the New York Giants in the World Series.
Blanche was just over a year old when the First World War broke out. Although, she has no memory of that conflict, one memory stands out concerning the Second World War.
"My mother and I were in the garden, and planes went overhead," she recalls.
Blanche has seen St. John's evolve into a modern city. As a young girl, Blanche and her family moved to St. John's in the 1920s. Coming from Lower Island Cove, the move was a big adjustment as, at the time, St. John's had streetcars.
Often, she and her mother would ride the streetcar to go grocery shopping.
"I was sitting down, I was so proud and as happy as I could be because I was getting a ride on the streetcar," she says.
Blanche, a devout Christian, likes to tell a story about the streetcars. She recounts being told by her mother that if she was bad, the "black man" would come for her. Of course, in those days it was taboo to say the devil, so the term black man was used instead.
When she was eight or nine, Blanche was riding on the streetcar with her mother when the car stopped to pick up a man of dark complexion.
It was a different time and it was rare to see an African-American man in Newfoundland. It was a case of mistaken identity for Blanche, as she saw the man and hid behind her mother, thinking the devil had come for her.
"I thought, well what did I do now?" says Blanche.
Hanging above her bed is a family photo. It shows Blanche with her seven children. Her late husband, Gideon, is not in the photo, but he is not forgotten. A small shot of him hangs in the corner.
"He was a good person and he was good to everyone," she says, remembering Gideon, who died on Oct. 5, 1980.
Her father, John Wheeler, perished tragically in the Viking disaster on March 17, 1931. The wooden vessel exploded while a camera crew was shooting sealing footage for the film The Viking, claiming 27 of the 153 men on board. Blanche was 18 at the time.
She's experienced her share of grief over the years, and she's still in mourning over the passing of her son Robert on Feb. 24. He lived in Montreal.
"I haven't been right since," she says.
Playing the piano
Blanche still loves to play the organ. Having spent much of her adult life playing in churches in Northern Bay and Burnt Point, Blanche holds an affinity for playing music.
"My father told me I had music in me," she remembers.
After that, Blanche learned to play the piano.
In the 1960s, Blanche started playing the organ at her local church. In fact, Blanche still plays the piano at Luxury Estates.
"They're always asking me if I'm going to play," she says.
Her favourite pieces to play have always been church hymns. When asked which one she is playing now, Blanche slowly rises from her chair and begins looking for it.
Using agility not associated with someone of her age, Blanche deftly moves to her walker, using various objects to help her keep her balance, and grabs a hymn book.
Searching through the pages, she finds a page of sheet music for "Where the Roses Never Fade," written in 1942.
"I love all church music," she says.
There will be a party on March 15 to celebrate Blanche's significant milestone. All of her living family will be coming to Carbonear for the festivities. That includes her six children and 10 grandchildren, which includes Newfoundland songstress Kim Stockwood.
"She's a wonderful girl," says Blanche.
When asked about her greatest inspiration in life, she offers a simple answer - God.
"Love God, do his work, serve him as good as you can and be good to every human being," she says.
Blanche has mixed feelings about turning 100.
"I have mixed feelings," she quips. "I won't see another 100."
About Blanche Stockwood:
° Age - 99;
° Born - March 16, 1913;
° Place of birth - Lower Island Cove;
° Hometown - Gull Island;
° Resides - Luxury Estates in Carbonear;
° Family - late husband Gideon Stockwood passed away in 1980; children include Robert (deceased), Raymond, Leslie, Harold, Jean, Marie and Carol;10 grandchildren;
° Hobbies - playing the organ;
° Favourite song to play - any church hymn.