A B.C. woman who was born so premature she was fed with an eyedropper, slept in a shoe box, just turned 100
VANCOUVER -- The first thing Luella Martin wants to tell you is her story.
But which one?
“There are so many stories about her, and they are all amazing,” her great granddaughter Kaelyn McIntyre tells me.
But there is no story more familiar or more dear to Martin, her eight daughters, and three sons, it seems, than the story of May 11, 1920, the day Luella Martin decided to make her debut.
“Her mother died at childbirth,” her middle son Larry Martin says. And his mother was two months premature and weighed just two pounds.
His mom picks up from there.
“(My grandmother) put me with cotton batting in a shoebox on the oven door and she had to feed me with an eyedropper because I was so little,” Luella Martin says.
Larry Martin calls his mother’s survival a “miracle.”
Born in Alberta, Luella Martin grew up on a farm, and was adopted by her aunt and uncle.
She married her husband Alva when they were both 18, and at the age of 20, had her first of 11 children.
And at the age of 43, family tragedy struck Luella Martin again.
“I was the oldest at home when dad passed,” daughter Lynne Beer tells me. “I was 16. There were all these kids and Mum, she just did it.”
“Mum is the most amazing person,” daughter Suzanne Dearman echoes. “Sometimes we felt we weren’t sure where we were going to live next, but we always felt safe and loved.”
Fast forward and Carol Tauber, the eldest and family historian, fills in the rest of the family tree.
“There are 30 grandchildren, 47 great grandchildren, and 11 great grandchildren,” Tauber says with a straight face. And one more on the way in November.
“She’s the happiest, can you believe it,” Tauber laughs, “when another baby is coming!”
So Tauber and her 10 siblings knew that even with the pandemic, they couldn’t let their mother’s 100th birthday slip by without a big celebration.
The rented hall for 130 now both a memory and a hope for her 101st, Luella Martin’s extended family, who are spread across B.C., came up with a surprise: a drive-by parade outside her Surrey care home.
The team at Revera Fleetwood Villa thought it was a brilliant idea. They wheeled out a red carpet leading to a “throne” under the porte-cochere, lined the drive with balloons, and prepared 100 colorful cupcakes.
“She is always the life of the party,” Recreational Director Allan O’Meara says from behind his mask. (Tauber told me earlier she still plays the piano for all the residents, and used to fiddle in White Rock.) “To be so positive and to be so energetic at 100, I can only wish” O’Meara says.
At 2 p.m. sharp, the horns start honking. And vehicle after vehicle adorned with balloons and ‘Happy Birthday” signs and Canadiana crawls through the driveway.
For the next 10 minutes, it’s a nonstop of chorus of “I love you, Grandma!” and “I wish I could hug you, Mom!”
“Did we surprise you?” O’Meara asks.
“I should say so!” Martin answers.
Then just when it appears to be done, the family does it again, this time each car pauses long enough for everyone to get out to wave, blow kisses, drop off a card, and grab a cupcake, from at least two meters away.
Luella Martin waves, wipes away a tear, laughs, or smiles, and then shifts her attention to the next family bubble.
It’s a birthday and a journey she’ll never forget.
Her life advice at the century mark? “Be happy,” she says. “And don’t forget to say I love you.”