Dorothy Chura, a resident at Vernon’s Heritage Square long-term care facility, celebrates her 105th birthday March 16, 2021. She’s believed to be B.C.’s oldest COVID-19 survivor. (Contributed)

Dorothy Chura, a resident at Vernon’s Heritage Square long-term care facility, celebrates her 105th birthday March 16, 2021. She’s believed to be B.C.’s oldest COVID-19 survivor. (Contributed)

B.C.’s oldest COVID-19 survivor celebrating 105th birthday

Vernon’s Dorothy Chura has now officially survived two global pandemics

Throughout her long life, Vernon’s Dorothy Chura has fought many battles, and overcome countless obstacles. Her most recent victory: a fight against COVID-19.

At 105, she is believed to be the oldest person to survive the virus in B.C.

It’s for this reason her upcoming 105th birthday will serve as an extra-special milestone.

The Heritage Square resident will celebrate her birthday on March 16, 2021. Born in Witko, Sask. in 1916, the beginning of Chura’s story predates her move to Vernon by nearly a century.

Given that she’s lived through multiple World Wars and other global catastrophes — as well as personal health scares and poverty — her survival of the novel coronavirus is almost unsurprising.

Almost, if not for the fact that U.S. Centers for Disease Control data suggests people aged 85 years and up have a fatality rate 7,900 times higher than people from ages five to 17 — and the risk is much higher among centenarians.

Seventy people, 47 residents and 23 staff tested positive and nine people died following an outbreak at Heritage Square. Although Chura was also infected, she fought through. The outbreak, which was announced in late December, was declared over mid-February.

“She has always been determined to overcome the challenges of her life even as she aged, and she has,” Dorothy’s daughter, Diane, told the Morning Star.

Chura’s first major life alteration came at the age of five when her mother passed away,

Her father moved to the United States to re-marry. Chura was placed in eight different foster homes before landing in a family whose patriarch would not allow her to go to school, instead sending her to work the farm.

Such was life in the Prairies for an orphaned girl, until she got married on Aug. 6, 1938 to Peter (Pat) Chura at the age of 21.

As the oldest of five children Peter had been forced to leave medical school to help his mother and siblings, when his own father suddenly died. He later became a teacher — it was a cheaper and easier profession to get into then.

Following this, the young couple moved around Saskatchewan. Dorothy took part in local theatre activities, and also took the spotlight.

“Reportedly she was a gifted actress,” her daughter says.

When they arrived in Toronto in 1942, Dorothy proved herself an “exceptional seamstress” and talented hair stylist, but with her husband’s purchase of confectionery and lunch restaurant, she reinvented herself in the city as a businesswoman. And she was good at that, too.

“It was hard work with long hours, but they made it thrive,” Diane said. “Dorothy proved to be a natural businesswoman and through her contacts, wheeling, dealing, and great resourcefulness managed always to procure items no other store could find.”

One lunch confectionery became two, but in the interest of sparing themselves from extremely long hours, they sold the business — only to go the Empire route.

The Churas moved to Hamilton, Ont. and bought the Empire Motel. They had a daughter in 1949, who came to them between two hotel purchases after they relocated to Brantford and bought The Strand, a prohibition-era hotel, which suffered damage from a major fire that levelled several businesses on the block. Pat returned to teaching.

READ MORE: COVID vaccination party at Armstrong retirement community

READ MORE: COVID-19 vaccine protects health staff, seniors best after three weeks

The couple had been married almost 50 years when in the late 1980s Pat became sick. An earlier diagnosis of arthritis later manifested itself as prostate cancer.

“Dorothy nursed him lovingly at home for as long as she was able, but the disease was too far progressed.” Pat died at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Brantford in 1988.

“The loss of her life partner was traumatic,” her daughter said. “Still, Dorothy carried on valiantly for many years in Brantford after he passed, continuing to be an active member of her church community in the company of her friends of so many years and created a new life for herself.”

In 2007 Dorothy moved to Vernon to be nearer to Diane and son-in-law Wayne Wilson. But the strain and magnitude of the change took its toll, and she suffered a heart attack.

“However, Dorothy has always been a remarkable survivor, and triumphed in true prairie fashion,” her daughter said.

Chura stayed spry as a centenarian. At 100 years old she maintained her flower pots, bowled weekly, took long walks, did leg lifts daily to maintain her figure and avidly read the papers. Diane says she still dressed fashionably, got her hair done every Saturday and looked younger than her age. She watched the news on TV to stay informed about a world her generation had long since passed on to the next.

She moved into Heritage Square in Vernon — which she has come to love — after breaking her hip in 2019, and a day before her 104th birthday the retirement residence went into full COVID-19 lockdown.

Pandemics are said to be once-in-a-lifetime experiences. While Chura likely doesn’t remember the Spanish Flu of 1918 having been just two years old at the time, she’s one of few to live through multiple global outbreaks.

That’s worthy of a toast come March 16th.


Brendan Shykora
Reporter, Vernon Morning Star
Email me at Brendan.Shykora@vernonmorningstar.com
Follow us: Facebook | Twitter

CoronavirusSeniors

Just Posted

Two men were seen removing red dresses alongside the Island Highway in Oyster Bay. (Submitted photo)
Two men filmed removing red dresses from trees in Oyster Bay

Activists hung the dresses to raise awareness for Vancouver Island Murdered/Missing Women & Girls

Naloxone is used to treat opioid overdoses. (Black Press Media files)
Island Health issues overdose advisory for Greater Victoria

The advisory directs bystanders to an overdose to call 911 and administer naloxone

John Albert Buchanan was found guilty of manslaughter in the 2017 death of Richard Sitar. Pictured here, Buchanan walking to the court in Nanaimo last year. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Six years including time served for Nanaimo man in bludgeoning death

John Albert Buchanan sentenced in B.C. Supreme Court in Nanaimo for death of Richard Sitar

Facebook screenshot of the sea lion on Holberg Road. (Greg Clarke Facebook video)
VIDEO: Sea lion randomly spotted on remote North Island logging road

Greg Clarke was driving home on the Holberg Road April 12, when he saw a large sea lion.

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has restricted indoor dining at all restaurants in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 indoor dining, drinking ban extending into May

Restaurant association says patio rules to be clarified

B.C. Premier John Horgan speaks at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
Tougher COVID-19 restrictions in B.C., including travel, still ‘on the table’: Horgan

John Horgan says travel restrictions will be discussed Wednesday by the provincial cabinet

RCMP on scene yesterday at the altercation at the trailer park. (Submitted photo)
Violent altercation at Port Hardy trailer park sends one to hospital

Police say man confronted another over airsoft shooting, then was attacked with a weapon

Protesters occupied a road leading to Fairy Creek Watershed near Port Renfrew. (Submitted photo)
B.C. First Nation says logging activist interference not welcome at Fairy Creek

Vancouver Island’s Pacheedaht concerned about increasing polarization over forestry activities

FILE - This Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2015, file photo shows the dashboard of the Tesla Model X car, at the company's headquarters in Fremont, Calif. Newer cars that connect to the internet are capable of collecting vast amounts of data about their drivers. Tesla Motors has used data to reveal, sometimes within hours of a crash, how fast the driver was going and whether or not the company’s semi-autonomous Autopilot system was engaged. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)
Test of vehicle’s self-drive features mistaken for impaired driving

Campbell River RCMP warn busy roadway no place to check out a vehicle’s new features

A trailer with fire damage is taped off by the Port Alberni Fire Department at the Wintergreen Apartments on Fourth Avenue. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Fire knocked down at controversial Port Alberni property

City is concerned about zoning, building code and fire code infractions surrounding the trailers

Prince Philip is seen here talking to Alex Rennie about platters of food presented by the culinary deparment at Malaspina College (now Vancouver Island University) in 1983. (Courtesy of Alex Rennie)
Parksville man recalls meeting Prince Philip at what was then Malaspina College

Alex Rennie, a former culinary instructor, got to shake hands with royal visitor

Flow Academy is not accepting membership applications from anybody who has received a dose of the vaccine, according to a password-protected membership application form. (Submitted image)
B.C. martial arts gym refusing patrons who have been vaccinated, wear masks

Interior Health has already issued a ticket to Flow Academy for non-compliance with public health orders

Guinevere, lovingly referred to by Jackee Sullivan and her family as Gwenny, is in need of a gynecological surgery. The family is raising money to help offset the cost of the procedure. (Jackee Sullivan/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Langley lizard’s owners raise funds for gynecological surgery

The young reptile is scheduled for operation on Tuesday

Most Read