With champagne bottles popping and well-wishes from the Queen, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and other dignitaries displayed on the mantel, Pamela Ann Merrill Cook celebrates her 100th birthday in style surrounded by family and love at Carlton House of Oak Bay.
Commanding the room with ease and grace – refinement instilled early at King’s Hall Ladies College and perfected as a Montreal socialite – the centenarian matriarch raises her glass to her milestone, crediting her active artistic lifestyle for her longevity and sharpness.
Cook, born in Ireland Nov. 9, 1918, has spent most of her years pursuing artistic passions as an accomplished painter, from attending the renowned Montreal Museum of Fine Arts as a young woman, to most recently displaying her art in an exhibition at the sprightly age of 98.
“Being creative makes a lot of difference. It enlarges your vision. And you have to exercise and keep your brain active,” said Cook, before adding another nugget of wisdom. “It’s experience that makes you grow and the hard times make you strong.”
Cook’s two children, Larry and Lindy, and their children and grand-children, have all benefited from a lifetime surrounded by Cook’s art.
“I have thousands of paintings and sketches that go back from the 1930s to present day showing all stages of her life,” said Andrew Peck, Larry’s son and Cook’s eldest grandson. “It’s one thing to know somebody, it’s another to know somebody before you even existed in terms of seeing their interpretation of the world around them. This whole room has an appreciation for art and that’s a gift she’s given all of us.”
As the four generations sat down to an elegantly set table for the birthday feast, Lindy’s daughter Alison Wadsworth, read “Ode to Merrill” aloud to her grandmother. The touching and humorous poem traced the milestones in Cook’s life: moves from Ireland to Montreal to Victoria to Sooke to Oak Bay; a 30-year marriage to former diplomat Murray Cook spent travelling, golfing, gardening, and enjoying an active social life; and many career highlights with awards and recognition for her art.
“She is an incredibly unique person. On top of being a tremendous talent and incredible artist, she’s a woman of great class, dignity, self-respect and character,” said Peck.