Talking with Joy McCann is a reminder that laughter is often the best medicine.
McCann will be turning 90 soon, lost her husband John James McCann 15 years ago, and her only child, Roy, predeceased her in 2011.
In March she underwent surgery, gave up driving a car the day before the surgery, yet she finds humour at every turn.
Williams Lake is miles away from her birthplace — the small market town Hexham on Tyne, Northumberland.
She met John in 1940 in Black Pool where her family ran a boarding house.
“They’d turned the town into an airforce base to train the boys,” she recalled. “All through the war we had 21 boys billeting at our boarding house.”
John arrived a week before she turned 17.
“I had my birthday with 17 boys. It was good,” she chuckled.
John was in the desert for five and a half years during the war. He returned in 1946 and she met him again.
“I met him on the 24th of January and we got married on the 13th of April,” McCann recalled.
In 1976, the McCanns visited Williams Lake. It was their first trip to Canada. Their son Roy had moved to Williams Lake.
“It was a nice place,” McCann said of her first impressions.
“There were open doors, you could walk anywhere and somebody would stop and give you a lift if they saw you. It was so friendly.”
It was Stampede time and she’d been taken around in her son’s jeep, always going into back doors of shops and businesses.
“Then I found out that my son was with the puddle jumpers and was going to be in the Stampede parade.”
Puddle jumpers, she explained, were a crowd of youngsters who got together and went out in jeeps and land rovers into the woods and “got stuck.”
“So we’re coming into watch him in the parade and all of a sudden we were driving all the way down Oliver Street. I’d been here for over a week and hadn’t been down Oliver Street. I said to Roy, ‘how come I haven’t seen these shops with the glass fronts?”
Roy told his mom that was because they usually went in the back entrances.
Smiling she explained the reason they hadn’t gone out on the front street was because it had been freshly paved in anticipation of the parade.
She still chuckles about the fact she really saw the downtown for what it was after only seeing the back alley view.
Because the McCanns had arrived on holiday without a vehicle, they walked everywhere and people stopped them and invited them in for tea.
“We met such a lot of nice people that way.”
They returned to England, however, John had worked for 33 years with a firm and was getting to the stage where they were going to have to move from where they lived.
She didn’t want to relocate so instead, they decided to move to Williams Lake.
They visited in early 1979 to investigate whether John could handle the cold weather and stayed for two months.
By Dec. 6, 1979 they had immigrated.
Roy and his family lived past the airport turn off and his parents built onto a home for themselves on the property, where McCann lived up until eight years ago.
John worked as a custodian for the School District for seven years. It was a change of pace, but stress free, McCann said.
The McCanns were members of the local Lions and Lionesses Clubs and volunteered at the Stampede and 4H Show and Sale through the years.
She also spent 16 years with the Seniors Activity Centre.
“There were three ladies who did every first and third Tuesday of the month together. One was taking cash, one was making sandwiches, and I did most of the delivery.”
She continues to participate in carpet bowling and the Senior Stitches who make two quilts a year to raffle off for the Old Age Pensioners Organization.
Since her arrival, she has watched Williams Lake change and said it’s not “quite the cowboy town it used to be.”
“Things have changed since the town started to grow and we started to get people from out of town. The people are different so therefore you get that cross cosmopolitan thing where they don’t know you and people don’t smile at you.”
When Glen Arbor opened in 2004, McCann was one of the first residents.
“I love it here and would like to stay here for the rest of my life if I could,” she said.
“I have lots of friends in here. Three of us have been here since the beginning and another person joined us two years ago. We fit together as a foursome. We take turns hosting a dinner once a month.”
It’s her turn this month and she’s doing ham, she said.
It might have been a bit harder to give up driving if she didn’t have a scooter, but she’s had it parked away for two and a half years.
“I’m just getting out on it now. It’s not quite the same as driving the car. I have a basket on the back and I find if I turn around a bit too quick I think I clipped a counter this morning in Save-On- Foods.”
Raising her arms slightly she explained she wears a collar to bed and uses a special water pillow, otherwise her arms don’t work.
“I’m in good strength, but the body’s quitting slowly,” she said laughing.