Full house at Bella Brearley’s birthday party
At 104 Bella Brearley can still draw a crowd.
The well-known Mountain senior, who reached the milestone on March 15, was beaming on Saturday as dozens of family members, friends, long-time associates and at least three city councillors dropped by the Court at Rushdale retirement complex for a special birthday reception in her honour.
She was particularly happy to see seven of her nine great grandchildren on hand.
“When I came to Canada this country accepted me,” Bella told the hushed gathering.
Looking back over her many years, Bella drew a few laughs when she mused about her mortality, adding she wasn’t sure if there is a heaven.
“I know this much,” she said. “I’m going to be there a whole lot faster than you are.”
Bill Brearley, 75, one of Bella’s two surviving children, noted his mother had been quiet in her room until she came down to see all of the well-wishers.
“She loves an audience,” he said. “For her age, she’s pretty sharp.”
Well known as an advocate for seniors in Hamilton, Bella was twice chair of the local seniors’ council and was a member of the seniors’ advisory council after amalgamation.
She was among the seniors’ council members who pushed the city in the 1980s to build a recreation centre for older residents.
That goal became a reality in Dec. 1992, when the Sackville Hill Seniors Recreation Centre opened.
Bella was a familiar face at the centre during the first decade or so after it opened.
She looked after the Nevada tickets that were sold to support the centre’s programs.
Born in Isabella Craig in Aberdeen, Scotland, she came to Canada in 1927.
Shortly after arriving in Hamilton, Bella got a job serving meals to patients at the Hamilton General Hospital.
She later went to work at a cotton mill on James North and then to textile-maker Zimmerman’s.
In 1930 she married William Brearley, a motor mechanic at National Steel Car.
Also that year she joined the Mount Hamilton Women’s Institute and was appalled by the drab living conditions in one lower city residence for elderly women.
“I became an advocate for seniors and I still am,” Bella recalled to the Mountain News just prior to her 100th birthday in 2009.
After her husband died in 1978, Bella remained at the east Mountain apartment the couple had been renting until last year when she moved to the retirement home.
She has two surviving children, eight grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren and a great-great grandson.