Christine Blanchette


Dreams take flight for 92-year-old grandmother

If there is one word to describe 92-year-old grandmother Dorothy Ellis from Kansas, it would be remarkable.

The word daring also comes to mind. In August 2012, Ellis was sick. Only one week after her diagnosis she announced that she wanted to fly in a powered parachute.

Ellis’s granddaughter, Holly, described it in her February 23, 2013 blog as  “a cross between a lawn mower and chitty-chitty-Bang-Bang.”

Ellis’s dream of flying for the last time concerned her family, but not Ellis. Age was just a number in her mind. Holly was not only surprised to hear the news, but was worried for her grandmother. In her phone conversation, she said, “Gram you can’t be serious about riding in this flying death-trap.” Ellis replied, “Well, at my age, I figure I’m going to go one way or another.”

Her quest to live life to the fullest was to take her last final flight, and on September 18th she did just that. Ellis was flying high on life as her family watched her incredible moment flying over the horizon.

The family videotaped her inspirational journey, and the family chose the song “Somewhere over the Rainbow,” from the Wizard of Oz. As Holly said, “When you have a grandmother named Dorothy from Kansas, well, what other song is there?”

Ellis’s memory of flying over the rainbow lives on. She passed away on November 2, 2012.

Age ain’t nothin’ but a number

Betty Jean McHugh shows no signs of slowing down as she keeps setting world records in her age group. The widowed mother of three and grandmother of four, who has called North Vancouver, B.C. home for most of her life, set over 30 world records in distance running despite not discovering the sport until her early 50s.

Known in running circles around the globe as BJ, McHugh was born in Stanwood, Ontario in 1926, moving out west as a young woman with her future husband, Bob. She worked for many years as a registered nurse before retiring and channeling her energies towards running. Last month at the Honolulu Marathon, BJ set her most recent world record in her age group (85-90) with a time of five hours and 12 minutes.

BJ’s next race will be a half marathon in February and the BMO Vancouver Marathon in May. She looks fit and carries the same youthful gait as at an interview last year. I can feel her strength and confidence in her laugh as we chat over coffee.

BJ says, “Honolulu is my favorite destination marathon, which I have run seven times. I won my age group every time.” She says, “This is my first time I didn’t walk it. I just kept running. It is my favourite because I am never sore. It’s a warm climate and a beautiful start. This time there were three generations in our family who ran it.”

Her 58-year-old son Brent ran the marathon in three hours and 38 minutes; her granddaughter Ava, 21, running her first marathon, finished in four hours and 53 minutes. BJ says, “What was special was having the three generations there where my son was the first one to cross the finish and he would then run to meet us as we got closer to the finish and bring us in.”

BJ runs with her friends during the week for one hour followed by going to the gym; on weekends she does her longer runs. She keeps the same routine each week and on Saturday nights she has steak while on Sunday mornings she has waffles.