104-year-old Ella Fleury can knit a toque faster than her great-granddaughters can put the ring in the net for Team Saskatchewan.
Mrs. Fleury, who lives in Lloydminster, sent Keala and Maya Fleury off to the Canada Games with 22 spectacular green, white and black toques she knitted for the team. Every evening since Christmas for almost a month and half, great-grandma wrapped the extra thick wool around her knitting needles and created one masterpiece after another. Every stitch of each hat and pompom has a good measure of great-grandmotherly love injected deep into its fibres.
“Well, there are two things that keep you young — your loving family and having a purpose to each day,” says Mrs. Fleury, who turns 104 on March 2, the final day of the Canada Games. “Being part of Team Sask is really something wonderful for Maya and Keala. I am so very proud of them. I’m too old to be at the Games in Red Deer, but a little part of me is there with them — and knitting the toques really gave me a purpose for the last couple of months.”
Wednesday at the Collicutt Centre in Red Deer, the girls were presented with their toques after a game. And they sent a huge video tribute her way, shouting “Thank you Grandma Ella!” as the camera rolled.
“I was excited to see everyone else’s reaction. The girls on the team could not believe that at her age, she was able to knit all those hats. They were so surprised. It was so touching,” says Keala Fleury, 16. “My great-grandma is one of the most thoughtful and caring people I know – she’s so kind. I’m definitely going to thank her so much for knitting our hats and I’ll give her a big hug when I see her.”
Ella Fleury has knit well over 100 toques in the past couple of years. When she was younger, she used to crochet tablecloths that took two years to make, or afghans that take several months to finish. Now, she says at her age starting one of those projects is like “starting an all-day sucker at five in the afternoon!”
Other than those she gives to family, Mrs. Fleury donates toques to charities, including the Alberta Children’s Hospital in Calgary for kids in the oncology ward who have lost their hair during chemotherapy.
“She’s amazing, a real inspiration,” says Mrs. Fleury’s daughter Judy Ritz. “She’s got such a positive attitude.”
Mrs. Fleury is still sharp as tack and fit enough to climb up into an SUV by herself. She took a 50 km trip with family to Marwayne, Alta., to watch Keala and Maya play a game just a couple of weeks before Canada Games.. She marvelled at the speed and skill of all the players.
Ella Fleury grew up in Rosetown, Sask., in a family of 11 brothers and sisters. The fourth child born, only her youngest brother Marvin, 90, is also alive. Mrs. Fleury has three children, 8 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.
When asked about the secret to her longevity, she replies: “I think God forgot me."