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Vernon woman celebrates 100th birthday with older sister

Simone Huhtala had about 100 people at her party, including sister Bernadette from the U.S., age 101
Between them, sisters Bernadette Desy (left), from Everett, Wash., and Vernon’s Simone Huhtala have eached live more than a century. Desy turned 101 on Feb. 11 and her baby sister celebrated becoming a centenarian on Feb. 24 at Vernon’s Schubert Centre.(Roger Knox - Morning Star)

After the packed Emerald Room of close to 100 family members and friends serenaded her with a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday, Simone Huhtala was toasted.

Huhtala, from Vernon, was celebrating her 100th birthday at Vernon’s Schubert Centre, where she’s been a member since 2015, on Friday, Feb. 24. Pat Hudson, introduced to his wife by Huhtala, was the emcee.

“Simone has her own eyes, her own ears and her own teeth,” joked Hudson.

It was tough to get a word in with Huhtala during the ceremonies, what with the constant well-wishers coming up asking for a hug or a photo, and with singer/musician Bob King providing the dancing music.

Wearing a tiara and a sash that read “100 And Fabulous,” Huhtala happily obliged the reporter and her fans. She waved back at a pair of gentleman suitors waving to her during her interview with a reporter.

What made the 100th birthday occasion extra special was not only the fact the Emerald Room was packed, but that Huhtala’s older sibling was in attendance.

Yes, that’s right.

Huhtala’s sister Bernadette Desy, who turned 101 on Feb. 11, made the trip up with her son from her home since 1944 in Everett, Wash. Both sisters still live independently.

“I’m so happy she’s here,” beamed Huhtala. “It’s been five years since we’ve seen each other. Having her here is the best present.”

“The last time I came in winter, it was really bad,” laughed Desy.

Born Feb. 24, 1923 in Willow Bunch, one of Saskatchewan’s oldest settlements located 190 kilometres southwest of Regina, Huhtala and her family moved in 1936 to Maillardville, a Vancouver suburb, where she grew up. She married her husband, Arvo, in 1943 and the pair were together for 70 years before Arvo’s death in 2018 at the age of 95.

They moved to Coldstream in 1970. Huhtala has a son, Kenneth, and a daughter, Doris, who passed away. She is a grandmother of three, and great-grandmother of two.

Huhtala was a homemaker and mom. She worked in a New Westminster cannery as well as being a hairdresser, which she absolutely loved. She still cuts her son’s hair.

She’s a dancer. Loves to cut a rug and did that many times at the Schubert Centre before COVID.

Huhtala loved to golf, curl, bowl, boat and travel across the country in an RV. She sang with Vernon’s Sweet Adelines for 10 years with Arvo singing in the men’s group. Huhtala played guitar and Arvo played piano and accordion.

She and Arvo would winter in Palm Springs for more than 20 years, and they would take golf and bowling shirts and put designs on the front and sell them. She estimates they sold about 300 shirts over the years.

Asked the secret of their longevity, Desy answered and Huhtala nodded in agreement: “good genes.” Their mother lived to 92, and their grandmother was 95 at the time of her death. Same goes for their brother, Roland.

“It’s good health, healthy living, keep moving, exercise and think positive,” said Desy.

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Roger Knox

About the Author: Roger Knox

I am a journalist with more than 30 years of experience in the industry. I started my career in radio and have spent the last 21 years working with Black Press Media.
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