OPINION

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Margaret Large 560Guest writer, Luz-Maria Wilson

How often do you have the opportunity to talk to a person who is 100 years old? I belong to a small group of women who gets together every month to discuss the issues that may require the advocacy of the larger Canadian Federation of University Women SouthPort’s membership.

The Chair of our small group is Dr. Margaret Large-Cardoso who, on May 13, will turn 100 years old. Dr. Large-Cardoso, or Margaret as I will refer to her, agreed to sit down for a conversation with me. Joining us was her husband Joe Cardoso, who came to Canada from Portugal decades ago.

First of all, she says that the fact that she has lived 100 years is nothing special. Her mother lived longer so she feels that this is normal for her.

Margaret was born in Duncan, British Columbia on May 13, 1916 but when she was 3 years old, she and her family returned to her mother's hometown, Windsor, Ontario. Southampton was the place where the family would gather in the summers and it is the place that she calls home now.

At the time when women started to advocate for the right to vote and equal pay for equal job, Margaret and her sister were growing up accompanied by two strong and independent women, her mother and her aunt, her mother’s sister. These two women pushed Margaret and her sister into higher education so that they would have a good future. Education was the only option presented to both girls at a very early age.

Margaret holds a Bachelor’s degree in English and History from the University of Toronto, a Masters in Health Education from Wayne State University and a PhD in Health Education from the School of Public Health, from the University of Michigan. She became a Professor and long-time advocate of Health Education at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Perhaps because she concentrated on her studies and career, Margaret feels that she never really had the need to become a militant in the feminist movement. She had a good job and she liked what she did. She acknowledges that women still have to come a long way to have equal pay for equal work but despite the fact that male colleagues were paid considerably more than her, she also learned early in life from her mother and aunt to manage her money. That is advice that she would like to pass on to younger women - manage your money well and save.

“Life went on very simply,” Margaret said, as she adapted well and successfully to the many social, cultural and economic transformations that were brought forward during the ten decades she has lived and that for many other people it presented radical change.

Margaret Large young verticalBut what left a deep impact on her, something she remembers to this day, was the reality and atrocities of the Second World War. Working as an Assistant Director of War Services of the YMCA, attached to the Royal Canadian Air Force stationed in the Queen Charlotte Islands in British Columbia, she spent time in the hospital, helping military personnel, some of whom died in the War and never returned home.

The person she has most admired in her life is her mother. “She was always happy doing the things she needed to do without any fuss. She was beautiful and she did everything for us, saving every single penny to send me to school, mending our clothes over and over, sacrificing for us a great deal, really,” said Margaret. She recalls her mother once telling her, 'Margaret, you are as lovely in the inside as you are on the outside.' It is the love of her mother that she cherishes the most.

She has difficulty thinking of a challenge in her life. “You know, I really believe that if you fail at something, something good comes later for you. That is the way it has been for me.”

It was her mother who suggested she marry Joe Cardoso who would come by her house driving his Mercedes. Margaret was not impressed. She didn’t care whether she married him or not, she had a good life. But after five years of going together, her mother pressured her, 'You marry him or you get rid of him.' Her mother also spoke with Joe to make sure of his intentions. Joe gave her a beautiful ring that she still wears to this day. They have been married for almost 40 years.

Marriage has been the biggest challenge for Margaret. Two mature people from two different backgrounds offers even more challenges. “You have to give to get,” Joe interjects. Margaret adds, “Every day you have to compromise and adjust.”

One of the biggest challenges has been the fact that she is very sociable while Joe is not. She has many friends, Joe has just a few and claims having a social life is more difficult because he is an immigrant with a language other than English.

But they laugh a lot together as they tell me some funny anecdotes about Joe getting confused by the intricacies of the English language, such as the time Joe saw a sign which said, “Dressed chickens for sale” and he asked Margaret why would anyone dress a chicken? And there is a string of more anecdotes that they both share with me and we all laugh together.

Margaret enjoys Joe’s company and his delicious cooking. “I could not live by myself,” she assured me.

When I asked her about her biggest accomplishment, she tells me enthusiastically about the curriculum program she initiated and developed with the Coordinator of the Michigan State Department of Education for Health Education from Kindergarten to Grade 12. This curriculum program was adopted in the State of Michigan and in several other States as well. Margaret received an award for this as well as much credited recognition and honours for her advocacy on this important issue.

She attends and supports the Anglican Church in Southampton and likes to be in a congregation with other members of her community. Margaret is engaged in several other groups such as book clubs, investment club, Issues Group and the Canadian Federation of University Women.

She wishes that Southampton would remain always the same charming place it has been but hopes that Canada will do something to improve the social and economic conditions of our First Nations communities and that we develop in this community closer and better relations with our First Nations neighbours.

The biggest lesson she has earned in life is to be optimistic and expect the best always. Never live alone and have a network of friends.

She shares a quote with me that she keeps in her bedroom, 'Count your age by friends not years. Count your life by smiles, not tears.”

Happy 100 Years, Margaret!