Bettie Pellett celebrates 100th birthday

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BY MARCIA JANSEN

Driftwood Contributor

Bettie Pellett’s secret to turning 100 years old: always be a learner.

On Thursday, Jan. 20, Elizabeth (Bettie) Pellett will mark her 100th birthday. Pellett lives with her dog Sera, has a computer and a smartphone, and gets her hair done every week. 

“I still enjoy every day,” she told the Driftwood.  

A few days before the centenary milestone, Pellett sits on the couch with her dog Sera next to her. There’s a big stack of books and birthday cards on the other side, on the wall a painting of her and the beagle named Pekoe she had before Sera.

Pellett got Sera 11 years ago when she was in her late 80s. 

“Sera is 13 now, and I hope that she keeps going,” said Pellett. “Sera didn’t have social skills — she was always playing by herself — and her breeder wanted to give her away for free to the right person. She needed someone who could give her undivided attention all day, and luckily she came to live with me. I loved her from the moment I saw her.”

Together they make short walks around the house and in the garden. 

“Where I go, she goes,” Pellett said with a smile.

Pellett, whose maiden name was Dickie, was born in Santa Maria, near Santa Barbara in southern California.  

“I grew up in Long Beach with my three siblings, and I was the second child. We had wonderful parents who supported our growth. Education was very important to them. I went to high school, junior college and, during World War II, to a college that later became the University of California.”

In 1942 she married Bob Pellett, who shortly after their marriage was sent to the South Pacific to work at the Admirals Office. When Bob returned after the war, he went back to college and they both became teachers. 

“I got my master’s degree in American history and English writing and started teaching Grade 12 in high school.”

Teaching was her calling. 

“It is such a marvellous profession. I loved every minute of it.”

When she and Bob retired in their 60s, they moved to Salt Spring Island. 

“My sister who lived on Salt Spring Island had breast cancer and I wanted to be closer to her. I thought we would stay for a few months, but it ended up being for the rest of my life. I enjoyed it here. I love gardening, the island is one big garden itself, and became an active member of the Salt Spring Island Garden Club.”  

Pellett said she has had a good life. There were tragedies, though. Her younger brother Donald died of suicide when he was just 37 years old. 

“He fought during the war in the Pacific, became a successful doctor after that, but couldn’t live with the memories of the war.”  

The Pelletts did not have children. 

“It was something we wanted, but we weren’t lucky. That was hard, but as teachers, we always had young people around us. And Bob coached soccer and basketball and those kids spent time at our house as well.”

Over the years Pellett lost all her siblings, her husband, and had to say goodbye to many of her friends. 

“It is part of life. Sometimes I feel loneliness, especially with all the COVID-19 restrictions, but I don’t try to think about it that much because it limits your life.”

At almost 100 years old, Pellett is in a good place. 

“I am just happy to be alive. Every morning I wake up wondering what the day will bring. I start the day by reading the New York Times on my iPad, I love to read books and to spend time in my garden. I am also part of a Democratic club in California and join their meetings on Zoom. The computer is my portal to the world. I am interested in other people and cultures, there is so much to learn, I am rarely bored.”

Turning hundred when you are still living in your own house, caring for a dog and using modern technology is a rare feat. Is there a secret to it? 

“That is a hard question. But I would say, stay curious and keep learning. Always be a learner, it will enrich your life.”

Birthday Cards

Pellett’s friend Harry Burton is collecting birthday cards for her special birthday. If you want to congratulate Pellett, you can send a card to her care of Burton at 110 Heidi Place, Salt Spring Island, B.C., V8K 1W5.

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