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Thelma Nilsen, Revelstoke's oldest resident, dies

Thelma Nilsen, pictured just before her 105th birthday in 2010. - Alex Cooper/Revelstoke Times Review file photo
Thelma Nilsen, pictured just before her 105th birthday in 2010.
— image credit: Alex Cooper/Revelstoke Times Review file photo

Thelma Nilsen, Revelstoke's oldest resident, died on Monday at the age of 108.

The Times Review interviewed Nilsen just before her 105th birthday. She demonstrated her feistiness then, and kept it for several years after.

Nilsen, nee Harwood was born on Nov. 23, 1905, in Montreal. She moved to Vancouver at a young age and then to Revelstoke in 1920 after her father got transferred here by CP Rail.

She's stayed here ever since, working for Fred Young's dress shop and as a crew clerk for CP.

She met her husband Ivan while on a trip to Quebec City — coincidentally, they were both from Revelstoke.

Throughout her life she was instrumental in starting the Junior Women's Hospital Auxiliary and played an active role in the early ski days of Revelstoke.

Thelma lived at home until she was 102, when a fall led her to be hospitalized and eventually transferred to Mount Cartier Court.

A memorial service will be held at the Revelstoke United Church on Saturday, Apr. 19, at 2:30 p.m.

With her passing, Kay Martin, 102, is believed to be Revelstoke oldest living resident.

***

The following is an article the Times Review wrote about Thelma Nilsen on the occasion of her 105th birthday:

Feisty senior has spirits high at age of 105

Thelma Nilsen credits the Lord for enabling her to live to the age of 105.

The Lord and her orneriness, she added.

Nilsen, despite her age, is still feisty as ever. Revelstoke’s oldest current resident (and possibly oldest ever*) turns 105 this Tuesday, Nov. 23 and she had many stories to share.

Nilsen, nee Harwood, was born in Montreal but moved to Vancouver at a young age. There she learned to swim under the tutelage of Vancouver’s first lifeguard Joe Fortes.

Swimming was one of Nilsen’s favorite activites and she kept it up in Revelstoke at Williamson’s Lake.

Nilsen moved to Revelstoke when she was 15, in 1920, when her father, a CP employee, got transferred here.

“I was crying because I had to come to this damn place to live,” she said of the strange small town she moved to.

It ended up not being so bad as she made friends and had fun with what she called the Fourth Street Gang, driving around town and sometimes not coming home. She was “full of beans,” she said.

“The kids were friendly. I liked it,” she said. “It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.”

One day, while on a trip to Quebec City, Thelma met Ivan Nilsen. By coincidence, it turns out they were both from Revelstoke. Thelma recalled dancing with him in the big ballroom at the historic Chateau Frontenac hotel in Quebec City.

That brought up another one of her passions – dancing. She used to do the waltz, the two-step, the Charleston and more. Her niece, Kelly Gale, who helped with the interview, said Thelma still danced the Charleston when she was 75.

Thelma and Ivan got married but never had children.

Thelma worked several jobs during her life – as a clerk in Fred Young’s dress shop on Mackenzie Avenue and as a crew clerk for CP, where her job was to make sure the men made it in for their shifts.

“Some of the men were pretty damn tough,” she said. “I was tougher.

“They would say, ‘Don’t get mad at Thelma, she’s little but mighty tough.”

Nilsen lived at home until she was 102 when a fall led her to be hospitalized and eventually transferred to the cottages at Queen Victoria Hospital, where she will celebrate her 105th birthday.

 

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