“You’re only as old as you feel” is a term we’ve heard for as long as time itself, but the reality is, it’s true.
Today, Stella Baker turns 107, making her the oldest Sookie (and possibly oldest Islander) around. The digits don’t mean much to her though.
“I don’t feel old. I just feel like myself,” Baker said with a faint smile on her face in her room at Ayre Manor.
Born in Innisfail, Alta. in 1909, Baker and her family moved to Victoria when she was two years old. For perspective, R.M.S. Titanic was laid down this year in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Losing her mother at age 13, Baker got busy working as a cleaner at Empress Cleaners in Victoria. Living on a goat farm, though, she also took joy in being around animals most of the time.
She enjoyed riding horses, and at one point, she had a pet deer, which she kept until the deer matured and grew horns; it was then donated to a nature preserve in Beacon Hill park.
The farm was a special place in Baker’s heart. It was home. It was family.
“She loved it at the goat farm,” recalled Tara Jensen, her great-granddaughter, adding that Baker always preferred drinking goat milk instead of water, as she believed the water would “make her stomach rusty.”
It was 50 years ago, when Baker and her husband built a house on Eustace Road, permanently making Sooke her home.
Baker was never one to stay still, though. After working as cleaner for many years, she retired at 65; but that wasn’t going to fly.
“She got bored, and went back to it for another 15 years,” Jensen said, adding that after she moved to Sooke, she continued travelling into town by bus, having never driven a car in her life.
Reno, Nev. was a constant travel destination, visiting her sister, Hilda. Baker had a taste for gambling. Every Saturday, she used to dance at the old Gorge pub in Victoria. She could drink anyone under the table.
Even at home, she kept busy. She collected soda pop bottles, crocheted, and at 70, she was climbing her apple tree constantly.
“She’d go as high as possible, because she used to say all the time that the good ones were at the top,” Jensen laughed.
Everyone in Sooke recognized Baker and her little Pomeranian, Sparky, so no doubt she is a dear part of what makes this town special.
When asked what her secret to living over 100 is, the truth is, it’s not so secret.
“You keep busy.”