Lorena and her husband Tim Draney, circa 1940 near Stuie, BC (photo provided by Katie Hayhurst)

Lorena Draney celebrates 100th birthday in Bella Coola

She still knows how to enjoy a good party!

Local centenarian Lorena Draney has not lost her ability to enjoy a good party. Draney, who was born Lorena Engebretson on Sept. 14, 1920, in the old hospital in Bella Coola, enjoyed a very small party amongst close friends and family at the Seniors Mountain View Lodge. Due to COVID concerns it was a short and sweet gathering, but it nevertheless left me in awe of her sharp wit and quick sense of humour, as well as her outstanding musical abilities.

Joined by her good friends and former neighbours Katie Hayhurst and Dennis Kuch, Lorena sat down at the piano in the common room and let fly at least an hour of upbeat and joyful music while Kuch accompanied her on the clarinet. She plays by ear and never learned to read music but as her good friend Kuch said, “if you can hum it, she can play it.”

She spent her first thirteen years here in Bella Coola before moving up top to Anahim, eventually marrying Tim Draney and settling down to run a ranch at Towdystan. She spoke at length of her love of music and how, as a child, her father would play the fiddle in a dance hall style, raucous and fun, while her mother played classical style piano.

“I just climbed up on that stool when I was three years old, that’s where I wanted to be,” she shared. “I’ve been playing for 97 years. My life is music.”

She still lives independently at the Mountain View Lodge, cooking a full meal for herself every evening and making jam from scratch. Her sister Thelma, who is 97, lives nearby in the longterm care section of the local hospital.

Unfortunately, the recent COVID cases prevented me from fully interviewing Lorena, something I would have loved to do. However, I won’t soon forget the sound of her laughter and her mischievous sense of humour, and I hope I can visit her again soon. Happy Birthday Lorena.

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Lorena is an incredible musician and has said music is her life (Caitlin Thompson photo)

Lorena and her sister Thelma (photo submitted)

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