Isobel Howke

Isobel Howke

At 101 years old, Isobel Victoria Howke of Southampton is still celebrating life.

She was born November 9, 1906 and was one of ten children. A feminist, long before it was recognized, Isobel left home at just 17 to go to teacher's college in Toronto. Because she was too young to be accepted, she used her older sister's identification.

After graduating, she started out in a small country school and finally ended up teaching at Southampton's G.C. Huston Public School, which today houses the Archive Department of the Bruce County Museum and Cultural Centre.

According to former student, Trudy Peirson, as a teacher, Howke always believed in equal opportunity. "She insisted that both boys and girls do everything the same, including learning to knit!"

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Howke, herself, is still an avid knitter. She once knitted socks for troops in WWI and, over the years, has produced hundreds of teddy bears. "I took up knitting again seriously at 91," says Howke, "so that I could be part of Doctors without Borders, who provide the bears to children in underdeveloped countries. You have to keep busy and you have to feel that you're doing something that's needed."

Besides knitting, Howke has always been a gardener and is still often seen weeding outside the centre during the spring and summer. She is still active and so quick with her wheelchair that some of the nurses say they,..."have to remind her there's a speed limit".

On her 100th birthday, Howke received many tributes, including a personally signed note and photo from the Queen, a handwritten letter from Canada's Governor General, Michaelle Jean and certificates from Prime Minister Harper and Ontario’s Premier McGuinty.

Today, Isobel is still busy knitting her teddy bears. Her bed, in the Care Centre in Southampton, is usually covered in skeins of brightly coloured wool and finished bears sit everywhere in her room, along with a box of handcrafted dishcloths that she gives out to friends.

At 101, Isobel is a living example that age really is just a number!