Guest entry by Dan Bedell, Communications Director for Atlantic Canada
Attending somebody’s 100th birthday party is a rare occurrence but several Canadian Red Cross staff from Nova Scotia had that opportunity this past Sunday and in doing so learned inspiring things about a woman who helped run Red Cross youth programs for more than three decades.
Blanche Baker’s career started in teaching and moved into insurance where she quickly broke gender barriers, becoming the first woman licensed as a life insurance underwriter in Nova Scotia and within four years the first woman president of the underwriters’ association. She was a pioneer in the development of associations for women in business. However her passion became working with youth, joining the Canadian Red Cross in 1954 and serving from 1962-1977 as Nova Scotia director of the Junior Red Cross. To thousands of children and teens, she was known affectionately as Mrs. B.
Her 100th birthday bash, organized by relatives and friends, also shed light on how to live beyond 100. For Blanche, that included a structured plan, written when she retired at age 65, which stated a long-term goal of being “able to say I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course.” Her key steps to achieving that goal included “to keep fit – mentally, physically and spiritually,” and her list of priorities included “a balance of activity including rest and recreation.” True to her plan, until her late 90s she was up by 6 a.m. three days a week to swim multiple laps around the pool of a nearby sports complex.
Happy 100th birthday and best wishes for many more, Mrs. B. And thanks for all you’ve done for the Canadian Red Cross.