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Happy 105th birthday! Jeanne Courchesne celebrates a rare milestone

Most of her life was spent in Timmins, where she lived in a small home on the Mattagami River, until moving to Sudbury when she was 98

Jeanne Courchesne celebrated a very special and rare birthday Jan. 5 — she turned an incredible 105 years old.

Now a resident of St. Gabriel Villa, Laura Marie Jeanne (who goes by the first name Jeanne) Simon was born in the Noelville area on Jan. 5, 1917, one of 11 children. 

Three of her long-lived siblings are still alive, all residing in the Sudbury area. Mathilda is 101 years of age, Irène 90 and Paul 88.

Jeanne married Réginald Courchesne Jan. 17, 1934, in Gogama. They moved to Timmins, sending their belongings ahead by train, but undertaking the journey by canoe along with their infant son, Raymond.

“They don’t make them like her anymore,” said her granddaughter, Lee-Anne Martin.

The couple had six children, three boys and three girls. Now Jeanne is a proud grandmother to 15 grandchildren, 28 great grandchildren and 18 great-great grandchildren.

Ms. Courchesne was widowed in 1975 at a young age. She decided to get her driver’s license and purchase a car in her 50s, a Mercury Comet that was orange with brown stripes.

She remained an independent person, and never remarried as her husband, Réginald Courchesne, was her one and only true love, her family said. Ms. Courchesne remained in Timmins, living in a small home her family referred to as The Cottage, on the Mattagami River.

She lived on her own until the age of 98, when she moved to Sudbury to live with her daughter, Raymonde. 

Ms. Courchesne has undergone several surgeries in recent years after being injured in falls, and in November 2020, it was decided that it was best to place her at St. Gabriel’s Villa.

She celebrated her 105th birthday on Jan. 5, but was only able to have two people visit with her (essential caregivers) on her birthday due to COVID-19 restrictions.

COVID-19 has been hard on both Jeanne and her family, who are very close.

“We were hoping to go and visit her” for her birthday, said granddaughter Lee-Anne Martin.

She describes her grandmother as very quiet but with a good sense of humour. Martin said her diminutive grandmother looks much younger than she actually is. 

“To me, she hasn't changed since she was like 80 years old,” said Martin, who was very close to her grandmother as a child, as she grew up next door, on the Mattagami River in Timmins. “She looks the same.”

She said it is amazing to think of everything her grandmother has lived through during her lifetime, including events such as the Depression and world wars through to the current pandemic.

Jeanne went from living without electricity to the current technological advancements.

“At the age of 105, she is a true treasure and will always hold a place in our hearts,” Martin said.

She added her grandmother has made all of the women in her family strong. 

“Everybody looks up to her,” she said. “She’s the matriarch of our family. She holds us all together.”

Another one of Ms. Courchesne’s granddaughters, Raymonde Martin, said both of her own parents have now passed away from cancer, but her grandmother is still alive, and that gives her such comfort. 

Jeanne was even able to attend Raymonde’s daughter’s socially distanced high school graduation event last year. “It’s unfortunate that my kids don't have grandparents, but they have a great grandma,” said Raymonde.