Frances Peddle, province’s oldest person, celebrates 108th birthday

Frank Gale fgale@thewesternstar.com
Published on May 29, 2014
Frances Peddle, the oldest person in the province, is celebrating her 108th birthday today.
Star photo by Frank Gale

Sipping on a cup of black tea, Frances Peddle seems humbled when she’s told she’s now the oldest person in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Peddle turns 108 years of age today.

“Imagine, I’m the oldest,” she says in little more than a whisper when told of the milestone by her daughter, Margaret Bennett.

While her short-term memory has waned somewhat, Peddle still remembers things from way back — sometimes even memories of her childhood.

And she’s still witty, catching her son-in-law, Ivan Bennett, with smart one-liners. He said he’s amazed at how quick Frances can come up with them, considering her age.

While Peddle had some surgeries in her 90s, she’s is doing just fine physically and mentally.

As she sings contentedly in the living room, the Bennetts say they don’t know the particular song and neither is Peddle. But the couple, with whom Peddle lives, feel it’s calming and they’re assured she’s OK while she’s singing.

Frances became the oldest person in the province with the death of Margaret Ellen Moores, from Rushoon on the Burin Peninsula, who died in late April at the age of 108. Moores, or Aunt Maggie as she was fondly known, was born on Nov. 5, 1905, making her about six months older than Peddle.

Peddle was born Frances Harnum in Greens Harbour, Trinity Bay, on May 29, 1906 where she attended school and left home for St. John’s to work as a housekeeper at the young age of 15.

She left St. John’s to live with her sister in Montreal, but eventually made her way to Corner Brook where she worked as a housekeeper and met and married Loyla (Bob) Bernard. The couple raised two sons and four daughters, one of whom is now deceased.

Mrs. Bernard, as she was better known in Corner Brook, continued to work at housekeeping for “well-to-do” families on the west side of the city. She also cleaned offices at Bowaters Pulp and Paper Mill, cleaned public schools on Park Street and West Street and offices at Hickman’s.

Frances continued to work after her husband died, but went home to Green Harbour to take care of her ailing mother in 1966.

In 1968, she married her second husband, Elijah Peddle of New Perlican, Trinity Bay, who already had three daughters and five sons. She welcomed the expanded family and always considered her stepchildren her own.

When Elijah died, she moved to Davidsville to live with her daughter Margaret. They later moved back to Corner Brook, where they lived for 15 years, then to Stephenville Crossing where they reside today. Frances has been living with Margaret and Ivan for the past 26 years.

Peddle has been a dedicated volunteer, offering her time to work as a Legionnaire, with the Fishermen’s Lodge, the Ladies Orange Benevolent Association and the Anglican Church Women’s Group, of which she is a lifetime member.

Peddle’s resolve to help out was so strong that she didn’t give up catering until she reached the age of 90.

The Bennetts are once again hosting an open house at their Brook Street home in Stephenville Crossing for those who might want to drop by with well wishes for Peddle on her 108th birthday. They already know her daughters, who live in the province, and her two sons will be there for the special day.