At 102 years old, Bella Coola resident Lorena Draney said she has had a very good life.
It has involved a lot of hard work and ‘definitely’ a lot of good times.
Lorena said she would live her life the way she did over in a heartbeat and with her late husband, Tim Draney, who she was married to from 1941 until he died in 1987.
Born Sept. 14, 1920 in the old Bella Coola Hospital, Lorena was from a family who arrived in the area in 1894.
Her grandfather Jacob Lunos arrived by boat from Crookston, Minnesota with Rev Christian Tollefesen Saugstad.
Lunos sent for his daughter Annie Lunos, 13, who would become Lorena’s mother, after losing his wife and four younger children to TB, Lorena said.
“Annie always talked about how bad the weather was when they arrived here and how they were met by the Natives and taken by canoes with all their possessions to their new homes. She said without their help she doesn’t think they would have survived.”
Lorena’s father, Tom Engebretson, and his brother arrived a few years later from North Dakota, however only Tom stayed.
Growing up Lorena lived with her family in Nusatsum where she attended school until Grade 8.
She remembers fondly her teacher Margaret Greenaway who rode a little mare, Nancy, four miles to school every day.
“She was elderly, but was determined us little kids went to school.”
Greenaway told Lorena’s mom not to teach the children Norwegian at home, only English because the older siblings Ida, Freddie and Harold only knew Norwegian.
As a result, Lorena and her younger sister Thelma only knew a few Norwegian words.
At the age of three, Lorena started playing the piano and had a natural ear for music.
Her mom Annie played the piano and was known for playing gospel music in churches.
Lorena’s dad played the fiddle and Lorena loved playing with him.
Annie tried to teach Lorena how to read music, however, Lorena would ask her mom to play the piece for her first.
Because she could play it back by ear, her mom thought she knew how to read music.
In 1934, Lorena, Thelma and their mom moved to Towdystan where they had another place. Their grandfather, father and two brothers, were living there already. Their old sister Ida was married by then.
Their mother Annie travelled back and forth between Towdystan and Bella Coola for many years.
Lorena’s brothers were fishermen and she and Thelma looked forward to Friday nights when Freddie brought home chocolate bars for them.
There was no road then, only horses and buggy and it took about five days to get from Towdystan to Bella Coola.
In 1941, Lorena married Tim.
She said she chased him for four years before she convinced him she was the “one.”
Originally from Bella Coola, Tim was seven years older than her. He was living and ranching at Lily Lake.
The couple had one son, Phil, now 78.
Lorena and her sister Thelma were involved with the Anahim Lake Stampede for more than 50 years. For the dances, Lorena played accordion, brother Harold played the fiddle, Thelma’s husband Earl McInroy played the banjo and Jimmy Holt, Carey Price’s grandfather, played guitar for the rodeo dances.
Some of Lorena’s fondest memories are riding to rodeos as a young girl with Thelma and the fact that one time after dancing for many days, Thelma danced the soles right off her shoes and their mother was furious.
“Out she went to dad’s blacksmith shop to get them fixed,” Lorena recalled.
Tim and Lorena moved back to Bella Coola in 1980 after they quit ranching and built a home at Stuie where Phil lives today.
Until they moved there, Lorena never had hydro, running water, TV or a telephone and her main mode of transportation was by horse.
Six months after Tim died, Lorena moved into Mountainview Lodge Seniors Apartments where she still lives today.
Most days she can be heard playing her piano in her apartment or the one that is in the common room.
When asked for the secret to her longevity she responded eating good old-fashioned food from the garden, fresh meat and eggs.
Her neighbour and good friend Elaine McLean said Lorena is an amazing woman.
“She cooks all her own meals still, bakes and makes a fresh jar of strawberry jam out of fresh berries every week,” McLean said. “She has quick comebacks for everything and an infectious laugh. I can only wish to be like her at her age…no medical problems at all..unreal actually.”
If you know someone that would be great to feature in Living Here please email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 250-392-2331 Ext. 216.
Editor’s note: This article was only made possible because Elaine McLean suggested Lorena would be worth an article and was willing to take a set of questions from Coast Mountain News and sit down to have Lorena answer them. Thank you Elaine.