Meet Pam Moncrief: still young at a hundred

Pam with her daughter Ann Jenkins.

By the time you have read this story, Pam Moncrief will be ready to take her driver’s exam. This is important to her – she likes her independence and being mobile is a big part of it. So she  has to take the test. And she’ll do it again, in two years. She will soon turn 101.

“Basically, it’s an intelligence test”, says Pam, “they want to see if my brain is still working fine”.

And a fine-tuned machine it is. Pam remembers her past with absolute clarity and she enjoys every moment of the present time. She takes exercise classes three days a week. And afterwards she drives her friends for coffee at Tim Hortons. Her smile gives her away: this is certainly a favourite entry in her busy schedule. She wants to stay active and have fun. Though, she admits: “I wouldn’t go on the highway.”

In the summer Pam spends her afternoons at a swimming pool reading or doing crossword puzzles. And she still carries on with some of the activities she has been doing for decades while active in her church – she knits bunnies for Children’s Hospital for comfort gifts.

Pam was born in England, during the First World War, in 1917. She joined the army during the Second World War and drove an ambulance and a mail van. Pam remembers those years with accuracy, and brings a bit unusual perspective when talking about them.

“This may be a terrible thing to say, but I had more fun in war than I had in my life” says Pam and explains: “I was one of three girls, went to a Girls’ school, I never met a boy. When I joined the army I met men, I went to dances, I hitchhiked…”

That is when Pam met her future husband who came from Canada to fight. After the war, in 1948, they moved to Canada. In 1952, she returned to UK but was back to London, Ontario in 1961. She got remarried, to John Moncrieff, deacon at St. Anne’s, Byron.

600 years of history: Pam on her 500 year old chair.

Pam’s life revolved around St. Anne’s. As a St. Anne’s member, Pam worked on the Western Fair booth for many years, making pies and hamburgers, and volunteering on the Bazaar committee. She did Meals on Wheels for 35 years and was always ready to help anyone with a ride to appointments. She also knitted hats and mitts for children in need.

She watched the Byron community growing and becoming a part of the city of London. Pam’s entire family was involved in the church. Her grandchildren were baptised at St. Anne’s.

Finally, at the age of 84, in 2001, Pam Moncrief left Byron and moved to Cherryhill. Here, in her apartment, one can see quite a few items from the past: a 500-year-old chair (“it cost me a pound”), a metal bed warmer, hanging on a wall, like a souvenir, a lovely painting of Pam when she was only six years old…

Pam Moncrief: My sister’s shoes, 1929.

But Pam is certainly not stuck in the past. She likes when someone comes to visit, her daughter Ann being probably the most frequent visitor. While posing with Ann for a photo, Pam’s keen eye notices the camera: “Pentax?” And she reveals her secret: “I was very interested in photography.” At Ann’s big surprise, Pam shows one of her first pictures taken with an old Brownie camera that she got when she was twelve years old. It’s a photo of her sister’s shoes – almost nine decades later, the photo shows her artistic talent.

Pam also worked as a re-toucher. She hand-coloured many students’ graduation pictures before colour photography came in.

“Making life more beautiful” – that is what this lady is all about. Pam did it for her family, for St. Anne’s church and the Byron community, for her friends.

We wish her good luck on her exam and many cheerful moments to follow.

Text and photo: Davor Milicevic