Through the good times and bad, 100-year-old always rich in love
Sophie Discepolo and her family members were not always flush with money, but they were definitely very rich in love.
Sophie, who will mark a century of life on Jan. 12, was born, in Fort William, Ont., to parents who had immigrated from the Ukraine. Eight siblings arrived quickly after Sophie, usually one every year or so.
“It was fun,” said Sophie. “We got along good. We were poor as church mice, but we got along.”
As part of her chores to support the young family, Sophie would often head out to nearby fields to pick berries that her mother would lovingly transform into delicious jam for her growing brood.
Another of Sophie’s household tasks was to keep a watchful eye on the family’s two cows. They were staked together in the yard and tended to get tangled in their leads. It was Sophie’s job to yell for help if there was any sign of trouble. In the meantime, the youngster would while away the pleasant hours by picking mushrooms or making bracelets from clover.
In the early years of her life, Sophie’s birthdays weren’t marked in any special, celebratory manner.
“There weren’t parties. We couldn’t afford it. As long as there was bread on the table, that was good.”
As a child Sophie grew to love animals — a passion that continues to this day with a seven-year-old tuxedo cat named Blackie.
In particular, Sophie recalls a pet chicken that she carefully nursed back to health by repairing an injured wing with match sticks. The bird rewarded Sophie for her tender, loving care by hopping on her shoulder every morning as she made her way to school.
Sophie met and married her beloved husband, George, in 1934 through a family friend.
“He was kind of strict, but he had a lot of humour and we had a lot of fun,” said Sophie.
The couple, with their eight year-old son George Jr. in tow, moved to Dundas in 1942 to help Sophie’s brother-in-law Eddie run the White Rose Gas Station on King Street.
With a little bit of luck, they acquired what was termed “temporary housing” on York Road.
George and Sophie quickly made friends in the Valley Town. George’s talent with musical instruments didn’t escape the attention of the neighbourhood, as people intrigued by the music and laughter arrived with beverages and food, ready to socialize and dance.
Eventually, baby Donna arrived to share and further expand the love in the household.
Sophie worked at the manufacturing company Pratt and Whitney during the war for less than a dollar a day. Her talents later took her to Jackson’s Orchard in Greensville, Tip Top Canners in Greensville, Windsor Wafers in west Hamilton and toy-maker M.A. Henry. Sophie capped off her working career with close to 20 years at Veldhuis Greenhouses. She retired when she was in her 70s.
“They (the Veldhuis family) really cared for me. Every time I said I was going to retire, they talked me into staying,” she said.
Sophie’s job primarily involved potting cacti and teaching young students how to successfully manage the delicate feat without coming away with a pricked thumb.
Shortly after her retirement, Sophie’s husband became ill and died. To fill the void in her life, she joined the Dundas Seniors Club and started travelling; sometimes with family and often on trips with other club members. Sophie visited Hawaii, Missouri, Las Vegas, Istanbul and the Holy Land.
Sophie lived in the family’s York Road for 63 years before moving in with daughter Donna. She has two treasured grandchildren and a precious and precocious three-year-old granddaughter. She loves to play bingo, read, savour an occasional sip of brandy and snuggle with Blackie, the cat.
Sophie doesn’t really have a secret to her longevity.
“I don’t know, but like my doctor says, ‘Whatever you’re doing, just keep doing it,’” said Sophie.
Perhaps…just perhaps…the secret to a long life filled with plenty of love is the joy, wonder and mischief that often lights up Sophie’s eyes. You can see it when an eager-for-attention Blackie plops inartfully down in front of her, or when a visitor absolutely must see and hear Sophie’s singing Christmas tree before she leaves.