109-year-old celebrates birthday days after recovering from COVID-19

Great-great-grandmother Katie Bunio was joined by family members from all over Canada for a virtual birthday party on Friday.

Resident at Shepherd's Care Foundation's Millwoods facility Katie Bunio is living through her second pandemic

109-year-old celebrates birthday days after recovering from COVID-19

3 years ago
Duration 2:36
Featured VideoGreat-great grandmother Katie Bunio was joined by family members from all over Canada for a virtual celebration of 109th birthday.

An Edmonton woman is celebrating her 109th birthday — just days after beating COVID-19.

Katie Bunio, born Oct. 30, 1911, is living through her second pandemic.

The great-great-grandmother was joined by family members from all over Canada for a virtual birthday party on Friday.

She's a resident of the Shepherd's Care Foundation's Mill Woods long-term care facility, currently experiencing a coronavirus outbreak that has been connected to more than 100 infections. Bunio was declared recovered from a bout with the disease three days ago.

When asked how she feels at 109, Bunio had her answer ready.

"The same as nine."

Bunio attended her first Edmonton Oilers game at 100 years old in 2011 and has been a fan since. (Brent Mattice)

Deanna Emond said it's an amazing feat her grandmother has lived as long as she has.

"Not just that, to be in the condition that she's in," Emond said, adding that Bunio still loves to play cards and do puzzles or word searches.

"And if you could still put some dough in her hand, she'd be making perogies."

Bunio was born and raised on Alberta homestead, living and working on a farm near Redwater before retiring to the small town itself. Emond remembers whenever the grandkids would visit the farm, Bunio would have something baking in the oven.

"She took time with us kids to really make us feel special."

The importance of family is a lesson Bunio has passed on to her loved ones — and there are a lot of them: four daughters, 13 grandchildren, 30 great-grandchildren and seven great-great-grandchildren. 

Bunio stands with her husband Michael in an undated photo. (Brent Mattice)

Around 2000, Bunio moved to independent living at the Kiwanis senior facility in Edmonton. She only went to long-term care at Shepherd's about three years ago.

For a time she lived there with her daughter, Anne Mattice. Bunio was able to be by her daughter's side when she died last year, praying on the rosary and singing to her.

"I know that she was so happy that she could be there for her daughter," Emond said.

Grandson Brent Mattice said despite her age, his baba never seems to change.

"She is absolutely a wonderful lady and still with lots of vigour," he said, adding that her recovery from COVID just before her birthday was "the best gift we could ever expect."

Mattice believes his grandmother's longevity can be attributed to her faith and being a farmer for so many years. Homesteading in the 1920s and 1930s was not an easy existence. At one point Bunio lived with a dirt floor.

But hard work, eating naturally, and having a system of familial support have all helped, Mattice said. 

"She's been a super, super role model for us young guys that even think about getting that old."

Last year Katie Bunio's birthday was celebrated in person and grandson Brent Mattice hopes they do the same for her 110th. (Brent Mattice)

Since the pandemic, visits to Bunio's care facility have been curtailed and the family has tried to keep in touch through electronic means. Mattice hopes this time next year they can all get together in person to celebrate a 110th birthday.

"It's amazing that she pulled through; it's amazing that she's 109," he said. 

"And I'm expecting more amazing days down the road."

With files from Min Dhariwal