At 105, Florentine “Monty” Johnston said she only feels “about 50 or 60”.
“I feel like I can get up and go,” says Johnston, who lives in Saint John, NB
With her freshly pinned auburn hair, smart green dress, and bouquet of pink and white carnations, she’s more alive than some half her age.
“I still have my mind. I’m pretty good in my chair,” she said. “That’s how I survived. I kept the damn thing.”
At her birthday party on Friday afternoon at the retirement community Chateau de Champlain in Saint John, which included cake and a piece of music celebrating her birthday. singer Danny JoyceShe was in the mood to look back on her past life.
Growing up in Cape Breton in the 1920s and 1930s, she said, was “difficult”.
“When I was young, there was nothing unless you paid for it. When there are six children in your family, and it’s tough times, you’re not going to get everything right.
“But I think I did the right thing.”
She graduated from Saint John’s Vocational School, where she studied inscriptions and went to work shortly after graduation at the age of 17. Her first job was at the Museum of New Brunswick, typing information on specimens.
“I couldn’t afford college then,” she said. “Things were tough in those days.”
She then worked for Irving Oil as a credit card supervisor.
About that nickname…
Her nickname is derived from the surname of her first husband, John F. Montague, the father of her three children. After his death, she married her second husband, George Johnston.
“I am still Monty, and people call me Monty,” she said. “I don’t know everyone’s names, but everyone knows me. Others – there’s Anns, Joes, and Jims, and all that. But Monty was the only Monty in the room.”
After living with both husbands, she traveled the world with her own money – including spending summers in Barbados for over 20 years.
“I went to Ireland and I even kissed Blarney Stone. That’s how much I can say.”
“I’m very happy, very fulfilled. I enjoy life, and I like people. I like cards, and I enjoy old stuff,” she said.
Sue Palmer, general manager at Chateau de Champlain, described Monty as “a character.”
“Monty is a motivator. At 105 years old today, that’s amazing. She’s still so calm, knows what’s going on, knows the days of the week, she reads all the time. I can’t believe it. that she’s 105.”
Carrying murder mysteries
Monty delights after the accomplishments of her 5 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren – and a good murder mystery.
“I just love Sandra Brown. She’s an outstanding writer. I’ve read all of her books.”
Once “a man asked me what I was looking for – a love story? I said get out of here. I want to kill people – something creepy!”
Her sense of humor and concern for those around her have never waned. Up until a few years ago, she was volunteering with Meals on Wheels and Rocmaura.
“The phone rings all the time,” she said. “I have friends all over the world.” Daughter Shawn is “very devoted,” she said, and so are her other children.
“When I told her about going down to Brennan’s [funeral home],’ she didn’t want to hear anything about it. She thought I was going to live forever, you know. Good God, but he’s not that good! Do you understand what I mean?”
What is the best advice she would give, after 105 years of life experience?
“Drink a glass of rum and water at four o’clock at night. That’s better than all the pills you can take.”
That – and “be nice to everyone, and don’t think of yourself as better than anyone else.”