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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Westbound Highway 1 traffic near Herrling Island is backed up a long way following a vehicle incident. (Photo/Trish Dunbar)
Pedestrian killed in crash near Agassiz

Woman in her 50s struck by moving van

Students in the March 2020 Environmental Mind Grind, which was held at Sevenoaks Shopping Centre before COVID-19 restrictions were put into place. This year’s event is being held virtually. (Submitted photo)
Environmental Mind Grind goes virtual for first time

Event open to Abbotsford and Mission students in Grades 6 to 12

The Abbotsford Centre has the ability to host AHL level games if the Vancouver Canucks or any other NHL team chose to move its affiliate to the arena. (File photo)
Abbotsford Centre ready for AHL if right opportunity presents itself

Building recently upgraded glass and boards, schedule would allow for AHL tenant

In 2012, police in Abbotsford placed surveillance cameras near the Dhaliwal home in the 2500 block of Bradner Road after there were two drive-by shootings in the area. Harb Dhaliwal, 31, has now been identified as the victim of a fatal shooting April 17 in Vancouver. (Abbotsford News file photo)
Abbotsford man named as victim of fatal weekend shooting in Vancouver

Harpreet Dhaliwal, 31, killed outside of Cardero’s restaurant in Coal Harbour

B.C. Agriculture in the Classroom is offering free school tours of The Pencil Patch learning garden in Abbotsford in April, May and June.
Agriculture in the Classroom offers free school tours at learning garden

The Pencil Patch in Abbotsford provides 15 outdoor learning stations

In this image from NASA, NASA’s experimental Mars helicopter Ingenuity lands on the surface of Mars Monday, April 19, 2021. The little 4-pound helicopter rose from the dusty red surface into the thin Martian air Monday, achieving the first powered, controlled flight on another planet. (NASA via AP)
VIDEO: NASA’s Mars helicopter takes flight, 1st for another planet

The $85 million helicopter demo was considered high risk, yet high reward

A man has died after being shot at Coquitlam’s Town Centre Park the evening of Monday, April 19. (Twitter/IHIT)
1 man dead after shooting at Coquitlam park: IHIT

The gunman is still at large, according to the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team

(Photo by Mojpe/Pixabay)
Canadian kids extracting record amounts from Tooth Fairy

Our neighbours in the U.S. receive slightly less from Tooth Fairy visits

Dr. Bonnie Henry gives her daily media briefing regarding Covid-19 for the province of British Columbia in Victoria, B.C, Monday, December 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Toddler marks youngest British Columbian to die related to COVID-19

Child one of eight people to die from virus this weekend

Families of two of three workers killed in a train derailment near Field, B.C., in 2019 have filed lawsuits accusing Canadian Pacific of gross negligence. The derailment sent 99 grain cars and two locomotives off the tracks. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Families of workers killed in Field train derailment allege negligence in lawsuit

Lawsuits allege the workers weren’t provided a safe work environment

(New Westminster Police)
4 youth arrested after 30-person brawl in New Westminster leaves 1 seriously injured

Police are looking for witnesses who saw the incident take place

South Surrey’s Paul Cottrell, who works with the DFO, tows a grey whale out of Semiahmoo Bay Sunday. (Contributed photo)
Dead whale floating near White Rock towed to shore for necropsy

Animal has been dead since at least April 15

Sunday’s storm rocked one of the ferries crossing Kootenay Lake. Photo: Dirk Jonker
VIDEO: Storm makes for wild ferry ride across Kootenay Lake

The video was captured by ferry employee Dirk Jonker

Most Read