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Ponoka born woman celebrates centennial birthday

Over 100 family and friends came to celebrate the centennial birthday of Ponoka born Opal Spelrem (nee Vold).
Opal Spelrem takes a look at the special birthday cake for her centennial birthday Saturday

Over 100 family and friends came to celebrate the centennial birthday of Ponoka born Opal Spelrem (nee Vold).

The momentous occasion was marked Saturday, March 7 at the Asker Lutheran Church with many of Spelrem’s family in attendance. Organized by her daughters Sylvia Bystedt and Janet Van Housen, the new centenarian’s actual birth date was just a couple of days earlier on March 5.

Letters of congratulations came from as far away as England from Queen Elizabeth, as well as from Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Premier Jim Prentice, Wetaskiwin MP Blaine Calkins, Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Rod Fox, the governor general, the lieutenant governor and Mayor Rick Bonnett, explained Bystedt.

Determining her full family tree took some consideration as Spelrem has five children, who had 13 of their own children, one of whom had two more children; earning Spelrem the distinct honour of being a great, great grandmother.

Van Housen said her mother was a teacher at a rural school and then at Mecca Glen School for some years and was born the same year as the church was constructed, which was September 1915. “She was very involved as a school teacher,” Van Housen said.

“I think it’s remarkable that she made it to 100 years and all of these people showed up,” she added.

Bystedt put together a poster full of old photos of Spelrem for everyone to see, one of which shows a young baby Spelrem just a few months old about to be baptized. There was some speculation among family members that Spelrem may have been the first baby to be baptized at Asker Church, but no one could say for certain.

Bystedt recalled her mother was always busy and was known for hosting wonderful parties for family and friends. “She’s always been so interested in so many things,” said Bystedt.

While Spelrem cannot get around like she used to, both of her daughters agreed their mother has been a strong source of inspiration to the family.