Betty Golata will be 100 on Thursday and for those who know her, this won’t be a surprise.
“Betty is a formidable person,” says her daughter Frances Golata Nicolson, who helped her mother celebrate her birthday at Mountain Lake Senior Complex on Saturday.
“She has seen the passing of the first and second world wars,” Nicolson says. “She has seen 19 prime ministers of Canada, US presidents assassinated, the virtual eradication of smallpox and polio, TV, the atomic bomb, computers and the advent of global warming.”
Born in Vancouver in 1913, Golata spent her young adult life as a fledgling teacher in a one-room school north of Dawson Creek in Lakeview.
While living in that northern community, she met and married her husband Frank Golata and the two lived a pioneer lifestyle with no running water, stove fuelled by wood and light by kerosene lamp.
“She learned the life of frugality growing huge gardens and picking wild berries,” said Nicolson. “Frank hunted and brought home a variety of wild meat to eat — deer, moose, bear. She always felt that bear fat made the best possible pastry lard.”
Golata later taught in the city of Dawson Creek and retired to Shuswap Lake in 1958. She then moved to Victoria where she volunteered in the Royal Museum of BC. She’d always been community minded.
When she turned 80, she moved to Nelson to be closer to her daughter.
Again, Golata joined into the life of her community. She volunteered at the library and joined a book club.
Always an active woman, she competed in the BC Senior Games in the mid-1990s, winning two medals in the swimming competition. She joined the “Nifty Fifty” swim exercise group at the Recreational Centre — the eldest of the group, and when she turned 90 years, she was given a permanent membership.
“When the pool was renovated and the huge waterslide built, she was one of the first to go down it, and became the cover girl of the Centre that year,” says Nicolson.
Golata became a “Grandfriend” at Hume school and helped the Grade 5 children read and spell, and occasionally taught a geography class.
She founded a group of seniors calling themselves “The Second Wind,” who banded together to sing for other seniors at Jubilee Manor, Broader Horizons, and eventually at Mountain Lake.
“She doesn’t sing any longer, but enjoys them when they come to sing for her,” says her daughter.
Following her experience with the Royal BC museum in Victoria, Golata volunteered at the museum in Nelson. Shawn Lamb put her to work collating obituaries of people who lived in the Nelson area for the archives.
Today, she continues working on that project three to four days a week and after 20 years, there are over 12,000 names in the files.
“It is one of the most highly used sections of the archives,” says Nicolson. “It is her legacy to the city which welcomed her so warmly.”
On Saturday, many of Golata’s friends and family helped her celebrate her long life.
“Now at 100 years, her vision is flawed and she has trouble hearing things in spite of having hearing aids,” says Nicolson. “Her knees hurt when she walks, and her memory is slowing. She has trouble seeing people’s faces and remembering their names, though she can come up with some remarkable bits of memory. She uses a walker and a pushed wheelchair to help her get around, but is still a forceful personality.”