A Williams Lake woman will probably toast her 100th birthday with a glass of champagne.
The sparkling wine has been Lotte (Lieselotte) Obergfell’s favourite since she was first introduced to it while stationed in France during the Second World War.
“I never thought I would reach 100, but it feels great,” she said.
“I am still in pretty good health and still enjoy doing at least some of the things I used to do. I can’t go out right now but I can see the birds from my window and they make me smile every day.”
Lotte has lived with her daughter Christa Obergfell since 1998, who said it is too bad a bigger birthday party will have to wait until next year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I am glad she has been with me through all of this instead of living in a seniors accommodation,” Christa said.
Lotte was one of five children born in Reutlinger, Germany. They lived during the Depression and a bicycle her mother used to commute to work had to be sold to a farmer for produce.
After graduation in Grade 8, Lotte completed a three-year-apprenticeship program to become a sales clerk.
In Germany at the time, sales clerks had to know everything about the merchandise they were selling — where it came from and how it was made.
All sums had to be done in a clerk’s brain.
“Mom could do all her arithmetic in her head well into her 90s,” Christa said.
After the war, Germany was in a depression, so Lotte and her husband Richard looked to make a new life with their three children.
With borrowed money they purchased tickets to sale across the Atlantic Ocean to Canada.
They landed in Quebec City in July 1956 and then made the long train trip to Cranbrook, B.C. where Lotte was ‘astonished’ to see plenty of affordable food.
To learn English she listened to children’s programs on the radio and read the books Christa and her brother Andy brought home from elementary school.
The Obergfells moved to Surrey in 1965.
At the age of 49, Richard was killed in a car accident west of Cranbrook in 1971. He had been working as an art instructor for the Surrey School Board and had returned to do an art workshop in Cranbrook.
Widowed, Lotte went to work to support herself. After trying a few different jobs she settled in at Kinsmen Lodge, working in the kitchen.
“She always volunteered to work on Christmas Day because she loved being able to make the tables look special for the residents,” Christa said.
Lotte was also a talented soprano, singing in church choirs back in Germany and in Canada, often as a soloist. While in the Lower Mainland she sang with the Handel Society Choir in Vancouver.
She lost her singing voice in her 80s, but still enjoys listening to music.
Describing her mother as a great baker who specialized in European-style butter cream tarts, Christa said her mom’s cinnamon bun recipe is one of the best.
These days she is not baking very often but loves to knit slippers for family, friends and whoever needs them.
Often her daughter will drop off bags of slippers Lotte has made to the Salvation Army or the Cariboo Friendship Society for distribution.
Reading murder mysteries is another favourite pastime and she always has a book on the go.
“Mom loves spoiling the two feline members of the family too,” Christa said.
Lotte went home to visit Germany for the first time in 1973 and after that returned several times until the mid-90s to visit family.
She also travelled to Hawaii and to visit her grandson in Ontario when he was growing up.
Sometimes she’s called herself a ‘bionic woman’ because she’s had a pacemaker since her mid-50s, however, her health is good and she still walks up and down stairs in the house all the time.
“She was miffed about four years ago when I suggested she start using a cane when she goes to town,” Christa said, adding her mom does use one a bit downtown, but with COVID-19 she hasn’t been going out.
Lotte’s last sibling died a year ago so she’s the only one left in her generation on both sides of the family.
Her son Andy lives in Toronto and daughter Monika lives in Surrey.
Prior to the pandemic, her three children tried to get together with Lotte on her birthday, but that won’t be happening this year.
“It’s a shame that on her 100th we cannot do that,” Christa said.
There is nothing Lotte wants for her birthday, however, Christa is asking everyone who knows her mom to help fill the house with birthday cards.