Calgary

Alberta woman becomes great-great-great-grandmother

A 96-year-old is the proud matriarch at the head of six living generations of women, all in one unbroken line.

'I just couldn't wait for this baby to be born, because it was going to be my 6th generation'

Vera Sommerfeld, 96, is now a great-great-great-grandmother 0:36

Originally published December 2. 

They say that watching your kids bring the next generation into the world is one of the joys of growing old.

So imagine hanging around long enough to meet your great-great-great-grandchild.

That's what happened recently to Vera Sommerfeld of Lethbridge, Alta.

5 women and a baby represent 6 generations of the same family. (Caroline Wagner/CBC)

The 96-year-old became the proud head of six living generations of women, all in one unbroken line.

Baby Callie Marsh — born in October — is the latest addition.

Her mother, Alisa Marsh, is 20. Grandmother Amanda Cormier is just 39, and Grace Couturier became a great-grandmother at 59.

Great-great-grandmother Gwen Shaw is 75.

Vera Sommerfeld, 96, enjoys a cuddle with her great-great-great-granddaughter Callie Marsh. (Caroline Wagner/CBC)

"It's pretty wonderful, really," says matriarch Vera Sommerfeld.

"I just couldn't wait for this baby to be born, because it was going to be my sixth generation, and I waited for it for a long time." 

And from the first time she held baby Callie, she was smitten.

"I couldn't even describe it. She's just such a beautiful girl. I love her so much."

Close-knit family

The women all live in the southern Alberta city and get together roughly once a month.

On a Saturday afternoon, they are flipping through photo albums and talking about who looks like who.

The baby is passed from one set of arms to another while the women catch up.

Grace Couturier, great-grandmother, gets some time with Callie. Couturier says all the women have things in common. (Caroline Wagner/CBC)

They say there are things they have in common: blue eyes, an independent nature, and a stubborn streak.

"I would say we're all very headstrong, or pig-headed," great-grandmother Grace Couturier explains with a laugh.

And there is another thing that makes the family unique.

Five of the six were the first born in their families.

Great-great-grandma Gwen Shaw, 75, credits luck and good genes for the family's success. (Caroline Wagner/CBC)

Great-great-grandma Gwen Shaw says it's a combination of good fortune and hard work.

"I think we're just very lucky, that we've had good genes, and that we take care of ourselves," she says.

But nonagenarian Sommerfeld has her own secret to long life.

Alcohol, she says. To be more precise: Rum and soda.

As for whether she'll make it to see the seventh generation, she laughs.

"You've got to be kidding!"

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About the Author

Caroline Wagner

Freelance writer

Caroline Wager is a freelance writer and former associate producer with CBC Calgary. She has a Bachelor of Journalism from the University of King’s College, and has also worked as a videographer with CTV Halifax and Citytv Calgary.