By Lincoln DePradine
PRIDE Contributing Writer
TORONTO, Ontario — The next time you are out grocery shopping, pay close attention to the woman next to you scrutinizing the prices of the items on the shelf; or ahead of you in the queue paying the cashier for a purchase. The person may be Dora Skeen, and she’s no ordinary shopper. She’s 106 years old.
“I feel so good. Thank the Lord,’’ Jamaica-born Skeen told reporters, at a New Year’s Eve event to mark her 106th birthday. It was organized by members of the Scarborough-based Agincourt Church of God, where Skeen has been worshipping regularly for more than 20 years.
Skeen, among members of the congregation, is affectionately referred to as “Mother Dora’’ and she’s active in the church’s seniors’ ministry.
“She’s just such a sweet lady; very sweet lady. You won’t even know – by just interacting with her – that she is that old; her memory is still intact,’’ said Andre Blake, Executive Pastor at Agincourt Church of God. “It shocks you when you hear that she’s 106; it’s unbelievable.’’
Skeen was born December 29, 1910. And, she told reporters her birth was on a Thursday and that she arrived in Canada on October 7, 1980.
“When she’s talking she just seems so clear. But she does say that her ears are a little bit lazy,’’ said Evangelism Director Andrea Simms.
Skeen mothered eight children, including one residing in Canada and five are in Jamaica. Two of the eight, as well as her husband, are deceased.
A former cook and custodian, Skeen lives independently at a seniors’ home at Kingston Road and Lawrence Avenue in Scarborough.
She not only purchases her own groceries but also does her own laundry, and proudly boasts of attending exercise classes every Monday and Wednesday.
The centenarian demonstrated her fitness by climbing the stairs unassisted to attend her birthday celebration last Saturday.
“This is amazing,’’ said Simms, who is a registered nurse by profession. “She’s independent with everything that she does.’’
Skeen says there’s no particular secret to her longevity, except that she was a big eater while growing up in Jamaica. “I used to feed my body good,’’ she revealed. “I eat everything.’’
Asked what advice she would offer today’s youth, ‘Mother Dora’ counselled them to “try to behave themselves and live good with everybody’’.