Long-time Kispiox and Bulkley Valley resident, Olga Walker turned 104 on July 1 and may be the Bulkley Valley’s oldest citizen.
She was born July 1, 1917, in the Goshko family farmhouse in Vegreville, Alberta. She is the youngest of seven children of Ukrainian immigrant parents.
In her late teens, she attended “Normal School” (also known as Teachers College) in Edmonton, Alta., and subsequently taught school for 42 years.
“She has had a huge impact on the lives of many of her students, who fondly remember her to this day,” her daughter Mary Lou Walker said.
Olga moved from Alberta to Vancouver in her 20s and fell in love with her adopted province of B.C.
In 1952, she married Jim Walker, who was from Newcastle, England and had immigrated to the Vancouver area in 1950. Soon after Jim arrived, Olga caught his eye, and the rest is history.
She was ahead of her time in maintaining her career while raising a family during the 50s and 60s. The assistance of a housekeeper and child care, allowed her to continue teaching full time and left the summers available for many outdoor adventures.
They spent happy summers at a cabin on Pitt Lake, B.C., or camping and boating all over the province, according to her children.
In 1963, Olga and Jim and their three daughters (Carol, Mary Lou, and Betty Ann) moved to the Kispiox Valley, where they built and ran the Kispiox Steelhead Camp.
Olga taught school at Two Mile Elementary and New Hazelton Elementary, until she retired from teaching, one day before she turned 66.
Olga lost her beloved Jim in 1970 to a heart attack, only seven years after moving north from Vancouver. She managed to teach full-time and still run the fishing camp.
For many years, while she was running the steelhead camp on the banks of the Kispiox River, Olga kept an extensive journal of the fishing, the weather, and the river conditions. She sent her regular customers an abbreviated copy each year.
Her journal reads like a who’s who of steelhead fishing, and very few famous anglers aren’t mentioned somewhere. The journal is a valuable bit of history, and it is an invaluable aid in showing the timing of the Kispiox’s steelhead runs and the best methods to catch these fish.
She finally sold the Kispiox Steelhead Camp in 1993, at the age of 76, and moved to Smithers to share a home with her daughter, Betty Ann.
According to those who know her best, (her daughters), family has always been very important to Olga.
In addition to her daughters, Olga is delighted to have one granddaughter and three great-grandsons.
Olga has long been the archivist for her large Ukrainian family, and organized many family reunions both in the Kispiox Valley and Smithers.
After retirement, she was very active in the BC Senior Games and was an ardent recruiter of fellow seniors, encouraging all to participate in whatever activity they enjoyed.
She participated in swimming, walking, discus, and javelin. She did not entertain javelin training until her early 80s.
Olga organized the bus trips, entertainment, and accommodation for provincial events for her fellow senior athletes, and many fun adventures were had on those trips, along with picking up an impressive number of metals by all.
She has firmly believed that “being active is key to overall health,” and practices what she has always preached. In Smithers, many will remember her walking her daughters’ dogs around town, particularly on the perimeter trail.
“Lots of exercise and a good shot of apricot brandy,” Olga says keep her ticking along, to this day.
Olga is still able to walk on her own with the aid of a walker and seldom has physical pain, she remarked.
In her early 90s, Olga suffered a minor stroke but was able to live at home with support until she went into care at the Bulkley Lodge at the age of 96.
“Her memory fades day by day, but she remains an eternal optimist,” her family noted, and aside from the occasional “grumpy day” (as the staff at Bulkley Lodge kindly call it), she is content and comfortable.
Two weeks ago, she was in a picture on Facebook, enjoying a beautiful fall day with Betty Ann, cuddled up with Betty Ann’s dog on her lap, both looking very content with life.
Her family visits her often at the Lodge and she has friends that live there too, which keep her busy during her days.
Olga is grateful for all she had and experienced in her life. She calls it “an adventure,” and at 104 years young she looks forward “to each and every day” she has to continue the adventure, literally of a lifetime.