“Well yes, I’m speechless, really,” said George Bedard after blowing out the candles on his cake during his 100th birthday celebration. Surrounded by family members, staff, and dignitaries, the new centenarian smiled graciously, thanked the crowd, and settled in to enjoy his special day.
Along with cake, hats, and balloons, the festivities on Jan. 24, which took place at the long-term care wing of the Wakefield Hospital, included the presentation of 130 birthday cards for Bedard. The goal was to gather 100 cards, one for each year of his life, but in the end even more people sent cards to help with the celebrations, said party organizer and nurse Michèle Pominville.
“We were trying to make a really special day for him,” said Pominville, noting that it’s the first time a resident has turned 100 while she has worked at the facility.
“I think he was pretty happy and I think it made him feel special,” Pominville said about the celebration. “It made him feel a little bit like a hero for a day.”
Amazingly, the long-time Low resident and Second World War veteran moved to the long-term care wing at the Wakefield Hospital only last October. He lived independently in the home he built in Low until the age of 99 with the support of his children and particularly his son, Donald, who lived nearby. Bedard’s wife died in 2017 at the age of 93.
“I would check on him every day and make sure he ate,” Donald explained.
Bedard had wanted to remain in his home, and his children had promised to honour his wishes for as long as possible. In the end, “I could only do so much,” Donald said. “It got to the point that I couldn’t take care of him properly, and that’s when we decided to move him into care.” Bedard is generally in good health, but has suffered from skin cancer in recent years and experiences some memory issues, his son explained.
Donald added that, “he’s improved tremendously since he’s been here because he’s had the care that he needed.”
He said that his father could be “quite lively” and had a good sense of humour and a bit of a mischievous side. At the facility Bedard was often quiet and even sometimes a little grumpy, “but sweet in his grumpiness,” Pominville explained, laughing.
Bedard was born in LeBreton Flats in Ottawa in 1923. He grew up there and started working for Hydro-Quebec, which was known then as Gatineau Power. He spent his career with the company first in Temiskaming, in northeastern Ontario, and then at the Paugan Dam in Low.
In Low, he bought some land and built a house for his family “from the ground up,” according to his son. Donald explained that they were living in the house as it was being built.
“People thought it was a barn at first because one of the last things he did was cut out the windows,” he said laughing. The family ran a hobby farm and raised ducks, chickens, pigs, and geese on the property. Donald said that his dad always had a positive attitude; an attitude he demonstrated clearly on his big day.
“I don’t know what to say or who to say it to,” Bedard said to well-wishers during his party, “but I can only thank you, so much.”