Catherine (Kay) Higgins came into the world prematurely on December 3rd, 1914. A continent away, the first world war, the war to end all wars, thundered. But a world at war was the least of Kay's mother's problems. Since she was born too early and was so tiny, weighing just four pounds, the nurses brought her in on a pillow. Her grandmother wrapped her up and took her home to Sarnia.
"There were no incubators in those days," says Kay. "So, my grandmother wrapped me in blankets and put me in the oven to keep warm."
Against all odds, Kay survived and would go on to lead a remarkable life filled with firsts.
"I got to see Canada come of age and remember the first telephone we ever had. Of course, in those days there were other people on the line and sometimes they would listen in. There wasn't much privacy."
Kay was raised by her maternal grandmother and remembers going to school in Sarnia. "I went to Sarnia Collegiate and they had a swimming pool, which was quite novel in those days. I learned to swim, took shorthand, typing and bookkeeping."
In 1935, Kay married Ellison Higgins, who was a telegraph operator for CN Rain. After a few months in Toronto, the couple moved to St. Thomas where they would live the rest of their lives.
"We rented for a few years then there was a provincial plan, called the 21-year plan, that allowed people to buy homes and have 21 years to pay it off. So, we scraped together $500 and bought a nice size piece of land and had our house built. You certainly couldn't do that nowadays."
Kay remembers how radio became the focus of many people’s lives and listed to shows like Amos and Andy. Then a remarkable invention called television came along and it changed everything.
"Our first TV was about 12 inches square and I remember the neighbours would come over on Friday nights to watch the fights. My job was to keep the aerial that hung out our bathroom window clear of snow and to find the best signal."
Kay doesn't know much about things like social media and cell phones but she appreciates all that she has witnessed and been a part of in her 105 years.
Sadly, Ellison passed a way from cancer in 1992. She says the couple would have celebrated 80 years married had he lived. But apart from this, she feels she has lived a good life. She enjoys her days at Bonnie Place Retirement Home where she has lived for the past two years after she broke her shoulder and could not live on her own any longer.
"They take good care of me here. I like the food and the people."
And the people like Kay too. In celebration of her 105th birthday, it was standing room only as friends gathered to wish her well. She is quite proud and excited by the special cards she received from notable people such as Queen Elizabeth the second, Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario and other dignitaries.
We wish Kay all the best and a very healthy and happy New Year!