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The oldest person in Canada lives in North Bay, and she's about to celebrate her 112th birthday

Dolly enjoyed the casino and once treated her family to a trip to Atlantic City, N.J. after cashing in on a winning lottery ticket
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Submitted by Dolly's family.

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Ellen “Dolly” Gibb of North Bay will be celebrating her 112th birthday on April 26, 2017. 

She has been Canada’s oldest living person since January 11, 2016 with the passing of Lillian Cornell.  Recently she was officially validated as Canada’s oldest person by the Gerontology Research Group and as of this date is the 42nd oldest person in the world.

Dolly also enjoyed an early birthday celebration this past Easter weekend. 

Dolly was born in Winnipeg as Ellen Box in 1905, before Alberta and Saskatchewan were even provinces.  Dolly has outlived her five siblings, Nora (Tuck), Art, Jimmy, Alex and Elizabeth, most of who lived well into their nineties.

Her parents were Virginia Beauvette, whom sadly passed away after giving birth to Dolly’s sister when Dolly was five, and John Box, a prospector for most of his working life who sought his fortune in the Klondike gold rush. Her father continued to raise the family, with the help of her older sister Nora and her mother’s sister on a small farm in St. Vital (now part of Winnipeg). She has less than fond memories of picking potato bugs on the farm.

Given the nickname Dolly in her late teens for her fashion sense, she worked at Eaton’s in Winnipeg creating and making fashion accessories such as flowers from ribbons. She remembers the excitement when Eaton’s had its first escalator installed. Unfortunately, she was forced to leave Eaton’s when she married Dave Gibb in 1928, as they did not knowingly employ married women in those days.

Dolly and Dave had two daughters, Eleanor who was born in 1929 and Sue who was born in 1939. Dave was a talented metalsmith who worked for the railway in Winnipeg. In 1941, the family moved to the Westfort area of Fort William (now part of Thunder Bay) where he joined the war effort at Canada Car building airplanes. Dolly was a homemaker, a talented cook, and seamstress. She was very close to both of her daughters.

Dave Gibb, also born in 1905, passed away in 1968 when he was only 62. Dolly was luckily able to continue to live on her own in her tiny 425 square foot, two bedroom wartime home on Gore Street in Thunder Bay. Dolly resided in this home until the age of 100.

After Dave’s death, she enjoyed the companionship for many years of family friend Herb Wennberg who had also lost his wife. She cooked for him and helped him with his business. Herb regularly drove Dolly across Canada to visit her daughters, Sue and Dave Crozier in North Bay and Eleanor and Terry Duggan in Kamloops, BC. These trips included stops to visit her siblings and in-laws throughout western Canada.

Known as “Nan” to her grandchildren, they would anticipate her arrival and the wonderful scones and baking that would come with each visit. As the grandchildren grew older, they appreciated the wonderful crocheted Afghans, coasters, and snowflakes for the Christmas tree that Nan made for everyone.

Dolly was an avid bingo player and very enthusiastically joined daughter Eleanor Duggan on many trips to Reno, Nevada. Dolly enjoyed the casino and once treated her family to a trip to Atlantic City, N.J. after cashing in on a winning lottery ticket.  Sadly she lost her favourite bingo buddy when Eleanor passed away in 1991. 

In 2005, shortly after her 100th birthday, Dolly moved to North Bay to live with her daughter Sue and son-in-law Dave. In spite of Dave’s death in 2007, Dolly and Sue continue to live together thanks to Sue’s determination, the help of many friends, caregivers and support from Jane, Derek and their boys.  Her other eight grandchildren, David Crozier, Marcie Crozier (Peter Kastner), Jim (Kerry) Crozier, Mike (Diane) Duggan, Rick (Maureen) Duggan, Maureen (Ken) Mackinlay, Terry (Bunny) Duggan, Susan (Wolf) Nickel, Kitty Duggan (deceased) and their families along with her son-in-law Terry Duggan all live in BC and Alberta. All appreciate the support that lets Dolly continue to live in a private home.

Her last casino trip was to Casino Rama in 2010 with Sue’s friends Bob and Rita. Dolly was so excited to be there, she wouldn’t leave the slot machine, afraid Bob would want to go home.

Dolly always dressed well and didn’t begin wearing pants in public until she was in her early 100’s. Who would have ever believed Nan would actually be wearing jeans!!!  She is confined to a wheelchair, but otherwise she enjoys good health and a sharp mind with a very strong detail-oriented memory. Her hearing is challenged so family and friends ask questions by writing them down on her iPad. Her daily rituals also include the Wheel of Fortune at 7 p.m. followed by Jeopardy.

Dolly’s family attributes her longevity to genetics, eating well in moderation, and lots of full-fat cream and butter. She always walked a lot as she rarely owned a car. She never smoked or drank until her seventies when she started enjoying the occasional scotch. Today she enjoys a daily Coors Light or Budweiser and maybe a little wine with dinner. When asked what her boyfriend’s name is, she states “Bud  ..…  BudWeiser” and chuckles.

When asked what her secret to longevity is she shrugs her shoulder and says “I don’t know…I can’t help it….I will have to take what God gives me.”

Dolly and family are also very grateful for the help of kind neighbours and friends, the Cassellholme home care team, Paramed nursing care and the generosity of Dr. Wendy Graham.

Today she has 9 grandchildren, 22 great grandchildren and 10 great-great grandchildren.

She will be celebrating her birthday with her daughter Sue Crozier, grandchildren Jane (Derek Wilkinson) of North Bay, ON, Susan (Wolf  Nickel) of Sun Peaks, BC and Terry Duggan Jr. of Kamloops, BC along with three great grandchildren; Kyle Wilkinson of North Bay, Blair Duggan of Kamloops and Elle Reay of Denver, Colorado.

Congratulatory messages have been received from Justin Trudeau (Prime Minister of Canada), David Johnston (Governor General of Canada), Kathleen Wynne (Premier of Ontario), Elizabeth Dowdeswell (Lieutenant Governor of Ontario), Anthony Rota (MP of Nipissing-Timiskaming District), Vic Fedeli (MPP for Nipissing District) and North Bay Mayor Al McDonald.



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