108-year-old Margaret Cruickshank is indomitable.
“She said to me at the birthday party, ‘I’m going to have my eyes fixed and my ears fixed because I’ve decided I’m going to live for another five years.’” Said David Cruickshank, who is Margaret’s eldest son. “That’s the kind of person she is. It’s amazing, and she probably will!”
When asked to describe his mother in one word, David chose ‘indomitable,’ saying his mother was the sort of person who did not give up, nor lower the standards she had in place for herself.
A few years ago, Margaret broke her hip. Last August she broke the other one. Doctors were certain she’d never walk again, but that did not deter Margaret.
“She was never supposed to walk again – but she does!” David said. Using her walker, Margaret can walk short distances. “She just won’t give up.”
Margaret was born on January 19, 1909, in Dover, England. She immigrated to Canada with her parents and three sisters at the age of four. David is unsure of when his parents met, but knows that it was before 1937, which is when he was born. Margaret had two other sons, one in 1940 and the other in 1948. She never worked outside the home, instead dedicating her life to raising her children. David said she had a very simple parenting philosophy, and it served him and his brothers well.
“When you think of all the books that are written now and psychiatrists and psychologists that are employed to help people raise their children, my mother was very simple,” he said. “Do as you’re told, eat what’s on your plate, say please and thank you, have a firm handshake, with eye contact, be on time, and always be courteous and polite.”
In the early 1980s, Margaret helped found the Lunch by George drop-in lunch program that runs out of St. George’s Cathedral in Kingston. The program served sandwiches, and later hot soups and casseroles each weekday to anyone who needed a little help.
According to St. George’s Cathedral’s website, the program served over 120,000 meals in 2012 and is the only downtown free food provider in Kingston.
“She was down there cooking and washing dishes for several years,” he said. “Because she saw the need. And this was, years ago… long before we became more aware of people in our society needing help.”
In 1980 Margaret would have been 71.
“That’s the kind of thing she did… She’s always been very low-key but there. She’s not a grand stander, never has been,” David said.
St. George’s Cathedral is one of Margaret’s favourite places. David said she went to church every Sunday she was able, and when the cathedral needed a heating system, she did everything she could to help out.
“She has a very simple faith, I think. It’s not complicated and tied up with a whole lot of ceremony and stuff,” David said. “She just believed in what the Christian church taught, or what any of the main religions teach, which is to be as good as you can, do as right as often as you can.”
She also had an undying love of the British royal family. David said she called him the night before Prince William and Kate’s wedding, requesting a 3AM wake-up call.
“I said ‘okay, but it will be on later,’” David said.
‘No,” Margaret replied. “I want to watch it live, and I want to be up so I can get dressed.”
When David informed her that she’d be watching it on television, and therefore didn’t have to get dressed, Margaret was quick with her reply.
“She said, ‘If you think for a minute that I’m going to watch a royal wedding wearing my night clothes, you’re sadly mistaken!’” David said with a laugh. “That’s the kind of standards she has for herself.”
For her 108th birthday party, The Rosewood Retirement Residence in Kingston held a party for Margaret, with live music and 108 roses for her to distribute to her fellow residents and guests. David said she had at least 15-20 family and friends come to the party, along with most of the residents at The Rosewood.
“It was fantastic. The Rosewood did a superb job,” David said. “I think seeing some of her great-grandchildren was probably [her favourite part], because they always give her a big kiss and make a fuss of her, even though they’re just tiny.”