Oh, you beautiful doll! Helen is 102!
As staff at the Renaissance Retirement Residence handed out slices of birthday cake, Helen Mornan was singing along with a 103 year-old song, only slightly older than she is.
“Oh, oh, you beautiful doll,” she sang, pointing in turn at her two daughters and grinning when not clapping along to the beat.
While the rest of the guests and residents attending her 102nd birthday on Wednesday, April 4, leafed through photocopied songbooks to join in, Mornan ignored the lyrics.
Her fork waving like a conductor’s baton between small bites of cake, she led residents at nearby tables through I’m Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover and You are my Sunshine.
Around her, Mornan’s four children joined in from time to time, leaning in and touching shoulders for the occasional duet.
It’s the first birthday party all her children have been able to attend since Mornan joined the centenarian club, according to daughter Ginnie Rich.
“It’s exceptional,” Rich said of her mother’s age. “I don’t think anybody ever expected that and to have her arrive in very good health, really.”
Born in Chicago, Mornan had lived in Manitoba and several B.C. communities before coming to Kamloops 20 years ago to move into a retirement home.
While Mornan worked at various jobs during her younger years, Rich said music and faith were her mother’s real passions.
A self-taught pianist, she would play “beautiful solos” in church, sing at weddings and was a Sunday school teacher and regular volunteer at summer camps.
“This is one she used to sing,” Rich said as the songbook pages flipped to I Love You Truly, a wedding standard since the turn of the century.
The singing stopped only when the gifts began, as Mornan pulled a handknit toque over carefully styled hair and mugged, solemn-faced, for her children’s cameras — before breaking into another grin.