Hazel Rattlesnake Gosselin of Chilliwack turned 100 years old last week.
All she wanted to mark the century milestone was a lovely tea.
So her loving family members organized a beautiful celebration July 22 at Cultus Lake Hall, which allowed for the gradual unfolding of the matriarch’s life, history, and personality.
Asked what she attributed to her longevity, she pointed to a life of moderation, focused keenly on the needs of family.
“It wasn’t anything special, it was just the way I lived,” she said.
“I didn’t smoke and I didn’t drink, I just took care of my family.
“That why they are so good to me,” she confided in a whisper, “because I was good to them.”
They filled the hall with loved ones, fresh cut flowers, tasty snacks, cool drinks, fresh fruit, and desserts, and of course tea. One by one, those who know her best, shared some stories.
Her grandson Chris Gosselin relayed what happened when he asked her what she thought about making the century mark.
“She said to me, ‘Ah, who cares.'”
Resilient, caring, family-oriented and with a strong work ethic is how many described their beloved elder who was born in 1915 in Haywood, Manitoba. She attended Birtle Residential School and later married Gaston Gosselin and had seven children, 10 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren.
She loved to set a nice table with fresh picked flowers, and dress up in attractive clothes.
Known as a private person, she didn’t talk much about her residential school experiences, but they were okay, despite missing out on getting a good education she was chosen to work with the headmaster, said her daughter, Brenda Point.
“As much as there were hardships and she missed her family, she got the responsibility for clothing and had first pick of the dresses.”
Hazel’s eyes shone brightly as she sat in her wheelchair in a sparkly purple dress, graciously greeting friends and family, and sipping from a delicate tea cup.
“Our family is what it is because of her,” says Norman Price, grandson of Gosselin on his mother’s side. “She is always there for everyone and made sure everyone was taken care of.
Price grew up in Haida Gwaii but he always remembered the Christmas box he’d get sent from his grandma in Chilliwack, with a jar of her famous raspberry jam tucked inside.
Gosselin worked in hospital and at seniors’ homes, and when she moved to B.C. in 1966, she worked in Chilliwack canneries and for Fraser Valley Frosted Foods until she retired.
“From her I learned how to be outstanding, honest and reliable,” said her daughter Yvonne. “I’m so super proud of my mom.”
Her granddaughter Inez Point praised Gosselin for her true grit.
“Whenever I face hardships, I think of the challenges she faced and I say, ‘I’m going to be okay.'”