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Happy 112th birthday, Dolly! Meet Canada's oldest person, Ellen Gibb

North Bay, Ont. great-great-grandmother attributes her longevity to genetics, eating well, and eating plenty of cream and butter.

Gibb has 9 grandchildren, 22 great grandchildren and 10 great-great grandchildren

Ellen Gibb on her 111th birthday last year. Gibb was born in Winnipeg in 1905 and lived most of her life in Thunder Bay, Ont. She now lives in North Bay, Ont. with her 77-year-old daughter. (Provided)

Ellen Gibb has blown out a lot of birthday candles.

The North Bay, Ont. great-great-grandmother celebrates her 112th birthday today as the oldest person in Canada — a record title she has held since Jan. 11, 2016.

Gibb has 9 grandchildren, 22 great grandchildren and 10 great-great grandchildren.

"Her mind is very sharp," said Gibb's 57-year-old grandson Dave Crozier. "She's very with it. Her biggest challenge is her hearing."

Gibb uses a wheelchair to get around and is attended to by home care workers four times a day.

Crozier said his grandmother lives a good quality of life at her house in North Bay, with her 77-year-old daughter Sue, who is Dave's mom. 

"[My grandmother] is up for the whole day," he said. "There's no real napping. She's very content."

Dolly (pictured bottom left) poses with family at her 112th birthday celebration over Easter weekend. Pictured seated next to her is her 77-year-old daughter Sue Crozier. Behind are her grandson-in-law Derek Wilkinson, her granddaughter Jane Wilkinson, and her great-grandchildren, Ryan, Michael, and Kyle Wilkinson. (Provided)

Born in 1905 in Winnipeg

Gibb was born in Winnipeg as Ellen Box in 1905. She's outlived her five siblings, most of whom lived into their 90s.

She didn't start wearing pants [instead of dresses] until she was over 100.- Ellen Gibb's grandson

Gibb often goes by the nickname 'Dolly' — a name she received for her fashion sense.

She picked up the nick-name while working at the Eaton's store in Winnipeg as a teenager.

"She's always been well put together," Crozier said.

"The formula is pretty much a black dress and pearls. I can still see her in her high heels vacuuming in her tiny little house. She didn't start wearing pants until she was over 100."

Ellen "Dolly" Gibb at 18 years old in 1923. Gibb got the nickname 'Dolly' for her fashion sense. "She's always been a lady. I've never heard her cuss," says her grandson Dave Crozier. (Provided)

Had to leave Eaton's after becoming married

Unfortunately, Gibb had to leave her job at Eaton's when she married her husband Dave Gibb in 1928, as Eaton's did not employ married women.

The couple had two children and moved to Thunder Bay, Ont., in 1941. Gibb's husband died in 1968 at the age of 62.

Gibb continued to live in her two-bedroom home in Thunder Bay until the age of 100, when she moved to North Bay to live with her daughter Sue, who is Crozier's mother.

"My grandmother is the oldest helicopter mom," Crozier said. "I'm sure that she's sticking around to take care of my mom."

Ellen Gibb with her grandson Dave Crozier in North Bay, 1960. (Provided)

Longevity attributed to exercise and butter

Gibb's family attributes her longevity to genetics, eating well in moderation, and plenty of cream and butter.

"All the things we thought were bad for us ... she's always eaten," Crozier laughed.

Crozier said his grandmother rarely drove and walked almost every day.

Gibb never smoked or drank. When she was in her seventies she started drinking the occasional scotch, Crozier said.

Wheel of Fortune and one beer a day

"Now she has her daily beer," Crozier said. "Around 2 p.m. she'll have a Coor's Light or a Bud," he said.

Gibb is an enthusiastic bingo player and took frequent trips to the casino in her older years.

"She watches the Wheel of Fortune every day. You can't meddle with that at all," he said.

Gibb will be celebrating her birthday at her home today with family and home care workers.

In case you were wondering how the oldest Canadian compares to the rest of the world, Gibb is also ranked as the 42nd oldest person in the world by the Gerontology Research Group.

Click here to listen to Dave Crozier talk about his grandmother on CBC's northern Ontario afternoon show Up North.

About the Author

Marina von Stackelberg

Journalist

Marina von Stackelberg is a CBC journalist based in Winnipeg. She previously worked for CBC in Halifax and Sudbury. Connect with her @CBCMarina or marina.von.stackelberg@cbc.ca

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