Lake Country’s Agnes McHugh is turning 100 next month and the community is invited to help celebrate her life and times.
McHugh (nee Bojesen) will celebrate her 100th birthday on Feb. 22 in Lake Country, after retiring to the area in 1988 with her late husband Bill.
But she was well-travelled before moving to the Okanagan.
Born in Shanghai, Agnes was the middle child amongst six brothers and enjoyed a privileged life which included participation in many sports, the arts and music. After graduating high school, Agnes had her mind set on a career and independence. She attended a business college and immediately following graduation, she worked for about a year for Reuters News Agency. She was soon offered work as secretary to the Far Eastern general manager of Thomas Cook & Son.
While employed there, Agnes swam routinely at the YMCA, played tennis at several tennis clubs and played grass hockey in a girls’ league. She loved to dance and during that time Shanghai was referred to as the Paris of the East so there was lots of opportunity for dancing at the night clubs.
In her early 20s, a friend of Agnes’ introduced her to a young Canadian who was boarding at her home. His name was Bill McHugh and although Agnes spurned his attention for considerable time, he eventually won her over. She related to his passion for athletics and theirs was a very romantic courtship. They spent many happy evenings dancing at the posh night clubs, dressed in tuxedo and evening gown. On Christmas Eve 1937 Bill asked Agnes to marry him and she accepted.
Agnes soon joined Bill after he secured work and made the move from Shanghai to the Lower Mainland of B.C. before the couple was married.
In those early years, Bill introduced her to outdoor living in a big way: Camping, hunting and fishing. Agnes participated in these activities and her love of nature expanded exponentially.
By 1940, they moved to Mission, staying with Bill’s parents while he tried to get on with B.C. Tel, which he did and soon they were purchasing a piece of land, clearing it and building a small house. In 1947, while living in that house, their only child, Patrick, joined their family. Life included raising farm animals, growing gardens and a lot of self-sustenance using the animals and the vegetables they grew.
The learning curve for Agnes was ongoing and, as always before, she met it with great aplomb. Because Bill was sent out of town often, Agnes needed to develop and culture a large degree of independence, which, as life proceeded, would stand her in very good stead.
By 1953, Patrick was ready to go to school, so it was decided that the family would relocate to Osoyoos, renting a home at first, but eventually buying and renovating their own home there. At that time she began to work at the credit union but left this job when the family got a posting by BC Tel to Prince George in 1965.
Agnes still enjoyed accompanying Bill on his outdoor adventures and although she found the winters cold and hard, made the best of this new life. It was at this point that their son married in 1970 and moved to the Queen Charlotte Islands.
As Bill got closer to retirement, he and Agnes got a posting to Duncan on Vancouver Island. They purchased a new home there and spent many days (and years) working together landscaping the grounds. The gardens Agnes created in Duncan were an art form. Her sense of balance, colour and harmony were ever-present.
The time in Duncan was a period of artistic blooming for Agnes. Ceramic classes became a large part of her creativity and she produced many beautiful and unique pieces and was rewarded with the highest honours possible in that field. This led her to china painting, which allowed her to express her knowledge and love of nature in a most sophisticated way.
In 1988, after much consultation and consideration, Bill and Agnes moved to Winfield. Bill’s eyes had failed and the family suggested they could be of help to them in their elderly years.
It was in Lake Country that Agnes would make a mark on the sporting world as well as on numerous volunteer organizations where she donated much of her time.
When her husband Bill’s eyesight was diminishing, the couple had been in contact with the CNIB, who recruited Agnes as a volunteer and her tenure with that organization constituted many years of patience and kindness to those she visited and helped.
At the time Agnes had been swimming at the Athans Pool in Rutland and a local newspaper article caught her eye, regarding a new program for seniors swimming as part of the BC Seniors Games. She was intrigued and excited and after doing the trials, was qualified and accepted to enter the Games in her age group: 75 to 79 years.
She won numerous medals over the ensuing years, teaching herself to be better and faster in the pool.
In late September of 2013, Agnes suffered a fall which ended in an extended hospital stay, followed by a period of rehabilitation in another hospital. As is her nature, she soldiered herself back to wellness, never giving up on herself or her independence.
Just before the New Year, she moved into The Lodge, where she feels very pleased to make her new home. This will afford her the chance to visit with staff and friends at The Manor, while receiving a more intense level of care.
On Feb. 22, Agnes celebrates her 100th birthday. She has always reflected on her life with positive affirmation of her journey, a true reflection of how she has lived each and every day. Her tenacity, determination, courage and zest for life continues to inspire all.
A birthday celebration will be held at Lake Country Manor in Winfield on Feb. 22 from 2 to 4 p.m. for all who wish to celebrate with her. No gifts please. Donations to SPCA.