With diverse and interesting family origins, Noreen Stinson, 87, was born and raised in Fort Frances. A proud mother, grandmother and great grandmother, Stinson’s life taught her much, from working to hitting the road in exploration of different countries and cities.
Now, in her eighth decade of life, Stinson shares wisdom, what matters the most and how the COVID-19 pandemic has stirred up feelings of deja vu to what she has previously lived through.
“When you’re 87 and get up in the morning, you feel pretty darn happy,” Stinson chuckled as she recalled what marks the highlight of her day.
“COVID-19 brings to mind a lot of things,” Stinson said. “When I went to school, I was the oldest. I brought home mumps, measles and chickenpox. With vaccinations, zilch. I think the polio vaccine was a big thing.”
Being a sociable person, COVID-19 has been a challenge for Stinson since she is no longer able to play bridge or have friends over for coffee. However, given she has lived through tough times, she has learned to make the best of it.
“Last year in January, I was going to the pool three times a week for Aquacise’s, especially for those of my age,” Stinson said. “I was getting exercise. I would go to Sister Kennedy’s on Saturday and play bridge, which I enjoy. I miss getting out for coffee with friends. I find the lack of sociability the toughest part.”
While Stinson was born and raised in Fort Frances, her ancestors hailed from the United States and Europe. Stinson’s father was born in Rainy River in 1908 and her mother was born in Fort Frances in 1914.
“My paternal grandparents came from Wisconsin, after my grandmother’s family immigrated from Ireland,” Stinson said. “My grandfather’s family was from Alsace-Lorraine, and they migrated to Wisconsin. They originally settled in Rainy River then moved to Fort Frances with the lumber industry. My mother was born in Minnesota, but her family originated from Quebec.”
A northwestern Ontario girl, Stinson went to St. Mary’s school before going off to high school in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
After Stinson got married and had her daughter, she worked for George Armstrong Company Ltd. the year the Causeway was being built. Her career then progressed until she became the food director at Rainycrest Home for the Aged, now Rainycrest Long-Term Care.
Stinson said when she worked at Rainycrest, they had 168 beds, all full. Working with the elderly, Stinson said, was rewarding because she had experienced being around seniors when her grandparents were getting older.
“They’re all individuals,” Stinson said. “They have their own thoughts and their own ideas. Life has been unkind to some of them because they lost a lot of their mental abilities to no fault of theirs, but I absolutely loved it. “I was good at what I did, but I was not one of those who would draw a lot of attention to them. When I had something to do, I would get it done.”
Stinson has also travelled around the world, exploring different cities and countries, including Great Britain, Hong Kong, Singapore, Bali, Arizona and a tour of the Orient.
“It’s interesting seeing new sites and new things, things you’ve never seen before,” Stinson said. “I learned how to enjoy myself, how to have a good time and how to laugh.”
Stinson said she remembers the first moon landing which she saw on the black and white TV, one of the highlights of her childhood.
Stinson said wisdom comes from experience and age, and the wiser you get, the less people want to listen, Stinson added.
“Listen before you open your mouth,” Stinson said. “Sometimes anyone of us could be quick to judge. Listen first talk after. But don’t be quick to judge.”
Stinson appreciates her daughter Noreen, granddaughters Sarah and Heather and great grandsons Jace and Freddie, the company of her friends and Marley, her eight-year-old Dachshund dog.
“You learn something every day of your life. There’s not a day that goes by that even as old as I am that I don’t learn something,” Stinson said.