Great-grandmother celebrates her 105th birthday with ‘ghoulish’ murder mysteries and a glass of rum

Monty Johnston is still happy and healthy at 105. “There’s Anns, and Joes, and Jims, and all that. But Monty is the only Monty in the room,” she said. (Julia Wright/CBC)

At 105, Florentine « Monty » Johnston said she only felt « about 50 or 60 ».

« I feel like I could get up and go, » said Johnston, who lives in Saint John, New Brunswick.

With her freshly styled auburn hair, sleek green pantsuit, and bodice of pink and white carnations, she’s more vivacious than some people half her age.

« I still have my mind. I’m pretty good in my chair, » she said. « That’s how I stay alive. I’m hanging on to this damn thing. »

Festive signage on the lawn of the Château de Champlain. (Julia Wright/CBC)

At her Friday afternoon birthday bash at the Chateau de Champlain retirement community in Saint John, which included a pound cake and a happy birthday serenade by singing mechanic Danny Joyce, she was in the mood to remember a life well lived.

Growing up in Cape Breton in the 1920s and 1930s was “difficult,” she says.

« When I was young, there was nothing unless you paid for it. When there are six kids in your family and times are tough, you just don’t get everything that’s going on. .

« But I think I did well. »

WATCH | Florentine ‘Monty’ Johnston shares the secrets of her longevity:

Florentine ‘Monty’ Johnston of Saint John turns 105

The woman celebrates a life well lived with some sound advice for the rest of us: « Don’t sit still. »

She graduated from Saint John Vocational School, where she studied shorthand, and went to work immediately after graduation at the age of 17. His first job was at the New Brunswick Museum, typing information on specimens.

« I couldn’t afford to go to college back then, » she said. « Things were tough back then. »

Later, she worked for Irving Oil as a credit card supervisor.

About that nickname…

Her nickname comes from the surname of her first husband, John F. Montague, the father of her three children. After his death, she married her second husband, George Johnston.

Monty, photographed by a traveling photographer when she was 14 or 15 years old. « There was a man taking pictures and I was helping my brother sell his newspapers, » she said. (Submitted by Derrick Barr)

« I’m still Monty, and everyone calls me Monty, » she said. « I don’t know everyone’s name, but everyone knows mine. The others – there’s Anns, and Joes, and Jims, and all that. But Monty is the only Monty in the room. »

After outliving her two husbands, she traveled the world with the money she had saved up, including spending summers in Barbados for more than 20 years.

« I went to Ireland and even kissed the Blarney Stone. That’s how I can talk so much. »

Monty in her early twenties, pictured chic in Charlottetown at her first wedding. (Submitted by Derrick Barr)

« I’m very happy, very content. I love life and I love people. I love cards and I love cribbage, » she said.

Sue Palmer, General Manager of Château de Champlain, describes Monty as « a character ».

« Monty is a driving force. At 105 today, it’s unbelievable. She’s still very active, knows what’s going on, knows the days of the week, she reads all the time. I can’t believe that she’s 105. »

The mink stole is one of Monty’s favorite garments. She also enjoys her regular appointments with the Château de Champlain hairdresser. (Submitted by Derrick Barr)

Bring on the murder mysteries

Monty enjoys following the accomplishments of his five grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren – and a good murder mystery.

« I love Sandra Brown. She’s an exceptional writer. I’ve read all of her books. »

Once « a man asked me what I was looking for – a love affair? I said get out of here. I wanted a murder – something macabre! »

His sense of humor and interest in the people around him never wavered. Until a few years ago, she was still a volunteer for Meals on Wheels and Rocmaura.

« The phone rings non-stop, » she said. « I have friends all over the world. » Her daughter Shawn is « very dedicated, » she said, as are her other children.

Monty celebrates his birthday with Sue Palmer, General Manager of Château de Champlain. (Julia Wright/CBC)

« When I talk to him about going to Brennan’s [funeral home]’, she doesn’t want to hear anything about it. She thinks I’m gonna live forever, you know. God is good, but he is not that good! You know what I mean? »

What is the best advice she would give, after 105 years of life experience?

« Have a glass of rum and water in the evening at four o’clock. It’s better than all the pills you can take. »

That – and « be nice to people, and don’t think you’re better than anyone else. »


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