A local school teacher and realtor described as groundbreaking, “feisty” and lots of fun to work with, is turning 100 on Saturday.
Juanita Belle Savege moved to Pitt Meadows from Alberta with her family in 1936 at the age of 14, said Helen Ferris in a 2014 letter nominating Juanita for one of the 100 Citizens of the Century for the City of Pitt Meadows centennial.
She lived on a farm and attended McLean High in Haney.
Juanita married her husband, Henry, soon after she completed Grade 13, and they lived on a farm at the corner of Hammond and Bonson Roads.
During the war effort, wrote Ferris, Juanita canvassed every door in Pitt Meadows, that had a population of 900 back then, and raised $1,000 for the Canadian Red Cross.
Then, the centenarian made history by attending one year of Normal School, from 1946 to 47, after her first two sons were born, in order to enter the teaching profession, read a column by Sheila Nickols that ran in The News in 2015.
She would go on to teach for 10 years at Pitt Meadows Elementary where she was also active in the Parent Teacher Advisory.
During the big flood of 1948, Ferris continued in her letter, Juanita would go to Pitt Meadows Hall following her daily teaching duties to help feed the military sandbagging the Fraser River.
“She would peel a wash tub full of potatoes to feed the working soldiers,” explained Ferris.
Juanita was involved in the Pitt Meadows May Day parade and festivities and was an active member of the Pitt Meadows Women’s Institute.
She also helped her friend Edith McDermott research and provide historical information for her book Historical Story of Pitt Meadows.
When Juanita’s two daughters were old enough, she started the Pitt Meadows Pony Club that met on her farm to ride.
Then, in 1970, Juanita made history again, wrote Nickols in her column, when, “she left teaching and became the third woman to be a real estate agent in Maple Ridge,” where the family moved in 1969.
Juanita worked in her new profession for 24 years, until she retired in 1994 at the age of 71.
“Mom was very strict, an excellent provider,” recounted her daughter Leigh Savege.
“She loved to entertain. Growing up, we had horses and began showing them as equestrians, my sister and I,” added Leigh, noting that her mother started the Pitt Meadows Pony Club and the East Maple Ridge Pony Club.
Longtime local realtor Bonnie Telep remembered working with Juanita, who worked as a real estate agent with Dave and Donna Telep, Bonnie’s in-laws.
“She was just always such a feisty character. She was lots of fun to work with,” described Bonnie.
Ralph Telep, Bonnie’s husband, fondly remembered being told about a Harley Davidson motorcycle trip Juanita and Henry took in 1948.
“Those motorcycles were hard riding in those days,” he said.
“They rode all up through the interior for about a week or a week and a half – and it was a rough ride because the roads were rough,” said Ralph.
Juanita was so uncomfortable, Ralph said, that she rode side saddle, ran behind the bike and stood up on it, anything possible to finish the trip.
When Juanita was about 65-70-years-old and still working in the real estate business, Ralph added, “it was like she was going on 20”.
“And she is still going on 20,” said Bonnie.
Juanita hosted numerous parties at her house over the years and she always looked nice.
For her birthday party on Saturday, Juanita has a brand-new outfit including a new dress, shoes and jewellery, in addition to new hearing aids.
“Everything has worn out by the time you make it to 100,” joked Leigh.
Juanita has eight grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild.
“She is loved and adored. We are so proud of her spirit and will to keep going,” she added.
A drive-by celebration is being held at 1 p.m. this Saturday, Jan. 30.
Leigh is asking anyone who knows her to write a fond memory for her to read.