A former Hamilton nurse and longtime resident, who just turned 105, is hoping she’ll soon have more birthday cards than years she’s lived.
Ann Konkel celebrated another birthday on Tuesday and her granddaughter says this is actually the second time that’s happened during a pandemic.
“She has lived an extraordinary life. So she has lived through the Spanish flu, she’s lived through World War II,” Laura Konkel told Global News.
“She immigrated to Canada, and when they came to Canada they were completely impoverished because they lost everything in the war.”
In late May, Konkel was admitted to St. Joseph’s hospital for a leg injury sustained in a fall.
Since then, the former health-care worker has had to put up with a few months of isolation in hospital due to COVID-19 precautions.
During a rare opportunity to celebrate with some loved ones in the courtyard of St. Joe’s, Ann’s granddaughter came up with the idea to have the public send 105 birthday cards in the same vein as a social media call in March for 100 cards celebrating the 100th birthday of World War II vet Fred Arsenault.
“I thought, ‘oh, what an amazing thing to do, to get 105 birthday cards for my grandmother’s 105th birthday,’” said Laura Konkel.
Born in 1915 in Rotterdam, Netherlands, Ann actually lived through another pandemic, the Spanish flu, between 1918 and 1920, which saw an estimated 500 million affected worldwide.
Before settling in Hamilton around 1952, Konkel and her husband, Edward, lived in Europe and through the Second World War.
The two were eventually married after Konkel’s husband worked with the resistance and escaped POW camps, before arriving in the Netherlands from Poland.
The two moved to Canada after the war with their three-year-old son, with both father and son eventually becoming steelworkers in Hamilton.
“My grandfather worked at Stelco, my dad put his way through university by also working at Stelco. So we’re very much a steel mill family, ” said Laura.
During her 68 years in Canada, Ann worked a number of jobs and, after settling with her husband in a Hamilton rooming house on Sherman Avenue North, eventually purchased the home.
Her dream job was as an operating nurse at the Henderson hospital (later renamed Juravinski Hospital) until she retired.
“The reason she loved it so much is she was really curious, and she loved learning about it,” said Laura.
She also has volunteered at the Good Shepherd Centre and the Catholic Women’s League of Canada.
Ann continued to live in her Central Hamilton home even after husband Edward died in 1994.
The card campaign is well underway, according to Laura, with mail coming in from the post office, hundreds of social media comments and thousand of shares.
“It’s amazing, and as I said, this is before we even gotten through 24 hours,” Konkel said. “We didn’t even think that the Canada Post worked that fast.”
Anyone who would like to send a birthday greeting to Ann can mail cards to: P.O. Box 10066, Don Mills, Ont., M3C 0J9.
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