Kory Shillam has reached a milestone that few others can lay claim to.
Shillam celebrated her 105th birthday at Vernon’s Creekside Landing Thursday, Oct. 20, surrounded by five of her six daughters, other family members and friends.
Asked to share her secret to a long life, Shillam says “moderation in everything.”
Shillam was born in Winnipeg in 1917. From there she made her way west, first to Calgary and eventually to Vancouver, where her dad was the editor of the Vancouver Sun.
She married Robert Shillam, who ran the family business, Shillam Garage, in Vernon. They were together for 64 years up until Bob’s death at 90 years of age in 2012.
“Our dad, like a lot of Vernon people, went to Vancouver to make his fortune. He had a gas station in the same neighbourhood (as Shillam). So my mom used to go and buy her gas from dad, and so they got together,” said Dian Hewrysh, Shillam’s daughter.
Hewrysh said growing up with her mom was “the absolute best ever,” as Shillam was always “all about love,” and gave everything to her children.
“There were no raised voices in our family,” said Lorill Crabbe, another of Shillam’s daughters.
Shillam’s daughters refer to their gentle upbringing as the “legacy of love,” which they’ve passed on to their own children and grandchildren.
A sweetheart by nature, Shillam kisses the hand of everyone she meets, and she greeted several people in this way at the birthday party, which featured live music and a large birthday cake. Shillam clapped enthusiastically at the end of each song.
Shillam isn’t just sweet; Hewrysh says she was also “a cool mom,” who loved Elvis and rock and roll.
“She had a long cigarette holder, a black one, and she would go around the house singing jazz in cute capri pants and little ballet flowers. She was a performer,” Hewrysh said.
Music would fill their house as Shillam was an avid singer of the blues, jazz and other genres. Her voice would grace the attendees of the many parties she threw.
“She would often get up and sing. There was one man who would play the piano and somebody else would play the bass, and then they’d all be calling out for Kory to come up and sing at the piano, which she would just love to do, and she entertained the whole party,” said Hewrysh.
She was also a great cook. In the early 60s she started doing gourmet cooking “before it was even invented,” says Hewrysh.
“I’m just thinking of all the dinners, the never-ending meals that she made, and she was an inventive cook,” Hewrysh said.
“She was on the cutting edge of everything,” said Crabbe.
Shillam is also a self-published author. She spent 20 years researching genealogies of both sides of her family, and also wrote a novel based heavily on her life, the characters spun from the people close to her.
Shillam has never been the shy type; quite the opposite, her daughters say.
“She is very sweet but outgoing,” Crabbe said.
Through her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, Shillam’s legacy of love will live on for generations.
“She set that example,” says Crabbe.