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101-year-old Oxbow woman reflects on vast life experiences

“Live with purpose and do what makes you happy. Be yourself and do what you want" - Mary Loppe reflects on her secret to a long life.
Mary Loppe shared her love of life and family.

OXBOW - Mary Loppe is a resident of the Bow Valley Villa in Oxbow.

She was born on Dec 13, 1921, and raised in the southeast. She was the youngest of three children. Loppe's father worked at the coal mines near Bienfait. The family lived in the Taylorton Coal Mining camp for several years. Her father moved the family to a farm five kilometres north of town.

Loppe and her siblings were close and enjoyed growing up together. She recalls playing in a haystack which resulted in its ruin, much to the consternation of her father. The Loppe children played with neighbours. During the school term, it was understood school, home, chores and work were priorities.

Every evening one of the children would read to their father. He was unable to read himself but enjoyed the text that they read him.

Loppe said more than once that families made do with what they had. Farmers had milk cows to supply their family with milk, butter and cream. It was a simpler time. They had chickens for eggs and occasionally they would butcher a chicken to eat. Producers never butchered a cow because that was their way to earn more money.

She recalled that a neighbour gave them duck and goose eggs. They incubated them and hatched them for meat once they had matured.

Her father was a very hard worker and as the farm progressed under his guidance, he eventually left the coal mine and farmed full time. In 1929 her father purchased a car. He would take the family for rides on Sundays. He then traded the car the next year for a quarter section of land.

The children walked half a mile to and from Rich Perry School.

“Father would drive a team of horses and take us to and from school in poor winter weather," she recalled.

Her mother was an excellent cook and she taught Loppe the art and passion of cooking and baking, especially Ukrainian dishes. Loppe put these skills to work at the age of 16, when she was hired as a cook for a neighbour’s boarding house. Loppe sparkled when she recalled her first purchase that she made with her earnings.

“I bought black, shiny dress shoes with an inch and a half heel.”

Loppe would have loved to have gone to university to become a teacher. However, there was no money for that. She did attend university classes for six months as a seamstress. Upon her return, she taught sewing classes in the area for six or seven years.

Loppe still crotchets and knits. She embroiders and is an avid reader. Loppe mentioned that she did not have any projects on the go.

“I don’t need anything,” said Loppe.

Her eyesight is still quite good as is her hearing. Loppe is quite mobile and only uses a walker for stability.

What was the biggest change that she recalled taking place? She answered that it was the car, the speed of travel and the convenience, which she said was a game changer.

In 1940, at the age of 19, she wedded Leonard Loppe. He also worked at the coal mine during the winter and farmed full time. They were married almost 74 years when he passed at the age of 96 in 2013. They had three boys and two girls. All are still alive and all live quite close in proximity to her.

Her husband's brother Leo completed 23 successful missions across Germany. Leonard's cousin was killed in a training accident. They were all close and these men are remembered daily.

The Loppes enjoyed travel in their retirement and visited many different areas. They spent 22 winters in Yuma, Ariz. Mary recalled going across the border to Mexico for a huge steak dinner for $3. This made her chuckle. They also enjoyed the Bahamas and Haiti.

Loppe is proud to say that there are now five generations in the family. At the gentle age of 100 Mary took a ride with her grandson on his motorcycle. She still loves to walk but is aware of the risks on ice and will be walking inside through the winter. The villa’s grounds and flower beds make a beautiful walking path through the summer.

As for her secret to living so well, she said, “Live with purpose and do what makes you happy. Be yourself and do what you want."

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