Looking back on a life well lived

On her 105th birthday, you’d expect Mary Homenick to declare she’s seen a lot of changes over her lifetime. But that isn’t the case. Her entire life has been about her love for family and friends. 

Born in Alberta to Ukrainian immigrants just after the eruption of the First World War, Mary had a childhood that was busy and full of people. She was one of 10 children, and after full days of school in English, she would stay behind to study Ukrainian. Growing up, Mary was committed to the church, and as part of a large family, she developed her caring and social ways early on. 

“I like people,” says Mary, who now lives at the Mary Immaculate Care Centre in Mundare. “Everybody that is around—I want to help others.”

Mary’s two daughters, Olga Dubuc and Eileen, remember their parents as a busy but happy couple. “They met at a dance, I believe,” says Eileen. Their father, Joseph, was from Round Hill, Mary from Holden. They were married when Mary was about 18. 

“After they were married, they lived on the farm, but it wasn’t productive land,” says Eileen. Over time they lived in many small towns around central Alberta, eventually settling in Vegreville for the long term.  

While their father worked different jobs over the years—on the farm, as a mechanic and in lumber and mining—what the Homenicks did best was work together: “We were in the restaurant business most of the time,” says Olga. The restaurant was in Strome, and it catered to large numbers of people building roads and working at the local mill.

Mary with her birthday cake

“Cooking was something she enjoyed, something she was good at,” says Eileen of her mother. The family’s days at the restaurant were long, but it was a point of connection for the community.

“When I was really little,” says Eileen, “she’d have a full day of cooking and restaurant work. When they closed down, we’d play hide and go seek. They always brought the fun into things.”   

Mary wasn’t just busy at the restaurant. She was involved with the Catholic Women’s League, where she served on the executive for many years. She also had a busy social life. 

As Mary’s daughters grew up, she also taught them to make the most of their time and to find ways to help others. Even as they had their own families, Mary encouraged Olga and Eileen to keep busy and be productive. “At least we had to bake some cookies or something,” says Eileen, laughing.

Mary with staff, family and Covenant Health board members

Mary still makes every day count.

“She’s a social butterfly,” says Effie Lakusta, Recreation Assistant at Mary Immaculate. “She’s a bubble of energy, a ray of sunshine. She’s always interested in your family, how your kids are doing and what you’ve been doing.” 

And Mary loves to look good, says Effie, who paints the senior’s nails most Fridays.

“I like them the same as my granddaughter has,” Mary laughs, referencing her blue nail polish, chosen especially for her 105th birthday party. 

When asked what is the secret to a long life, Mary says, “The reason I’m living this long, I think, it’s because I like people. If I didn’t like people, I’d be someplace else. But I like to be in this place that I am now.”

Enjoying life is important to longevity, she adds. “I’ve enjoyed my life very much. That’s why I’m living so long!”

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