At 105 years old, Florentine “Monty” Johnston said she only feels “about 50 or 60.”
“I feel like I could get up and go,” said Johnston, who lives in Saint John, NB. lives
With her freshly pinned auburn hair, smart green trouser suit and corsage of pink and white carnations, she is more alive than some people half her age.
“I’m still on my mind. I’m pretty comfortable in my chair,” she said. ‘That’s how I stay alive. I’m holding the damn thing.’
At her Friday afternoon birthday party at the Chateau de Champlain retirement community in Saint John, with cake and a happy birthday serenade by singing mechanic Danny Joyce, she felt like looking back on a life well lived.
Growing up in Cape Breton in the 1920s and 1930s was “hard,” she said.
“When I was young, there was nothing unless you paid for it. When you have six kids in your family, and times are tough, you just don’t get everything that goes.
“But I think I did it right.”
She graduated from Saint John Vocational School, where she studied shorthand, and went straight to work after graduating at age 17. Her first job was at the New Brunswick Museum, where she typed information about the specimens.
“I couldn’t afford to go to college at the time,” she says. “It was tough at the time.”
She later worked for Irving Oil as a credit card regulator.
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.
“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 everything. But Monty is the only Monty in the room.’
After outliving both her husbands, she traveled the world with the money she set aside — including the summers spent more than 20 years in Barbados.
“I’ve been to Ireland and even kissed the Blarney Stone. That’s why I can talk so much.”
“I’m very happy, very content. I enjoy life and I enjoy people. I enjoy cards and I enjoy cribbage,” she said.
Sue Palmer, the general manager of Chateau de Champlain, describes Monty as “a character.”
“Monty is a go-getter. At 105 today, that’s great. She’s still very sharp, knows what’s going on, knows the days of the week, she reads all the time. I can’t believe she’s 105.”
Bring on the murder mysteries
Monty likes to follow the achievements of her five grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren – and a good murder mystery.
“I just love Sandra Brown. She’s an exceptional writer. I’ve read all her books.”
Once “a man asked me what I was looking for – a love story? I said: get out of here. I wanted murder – something creepy!”
Her sense of humor and interest in the people around her has never waned. Until a few years ago she volunteered at Meals on Wheels and Rocmaura.
“The phone rings all the time,” she said. “I have friends all over the world.” Her daughter Shawn is “very devoted,” she said, as are her other children.
“When I talk to her about going to Brennan’s… [funeral home],’ she doesn’t want to hear about that. She thinks I’ll live forever, you know. God is good, but he is not so 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 at four o’clock in the evening. That’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.”