There was a buzz around the Village Manor.
Smiles lit up faces and an excited chatter filled the halls of the quaint retirement home in the heart of St. Jacobs; preparations were well underway for a once-in-a-lifetime celebration.In the corner of the lounge in a big comfy chair sat Sarah Shantz, the Manor’s longest-running resident, having moved in shortly after the doors opened in 1991.
On Monday, she turned 100 years-old.
“We’ve been looking forward to this weekend for a long time,” said Debbie Moore, who operates the home with her husband Wes. “Sarah is such an amazing person; she has such a good heart.”
The big day was May 25, but the party got started on the weekend. The fun began Saturday with a ride through the village on the horse driven trolley.
“The trolley road along King Street down to the farm where she grew up,” Moore said. “People were waving at us the whole way, it was so much fun.”
In the afternoon, a magician stopped by the Manor for a show.
And on Sunday, friends and family gathered to share well-wishes and stories.
“Over a hundred people came to the party,” Moore said.
Shantz grew up on a Mennonite farm in St. Jacobs at Wagner’s Corner. She attended Heidelberg Public School, back in the days of the one-room schoolhouse.
She worked on the family farm and for neighbouring properties, and also spent time at the old shoe factory where the market now stands, which was close enough to home that she and her sister could stop in for lunch.
She married later in life and didn’t have children. But there were always plenty of nieces, nephews, cousins and the like around to keep her busy.
After retiring to Elmira, and her husband Lorne’s passing, Shantz found a strong connection with the Moores.
“I can remember her calling me up, and it seemed like the next day she was moving in,” Debbie remembered. “Over the years, Sarah really became like a member of our family. She’d be with us for the holidays, like on Christmas mornings, when our boys (Andrew and Adam) were little, they would open up their presents and then they’d run to show Sarah. And she would tell the boys all kinds of stories back then, about her life working on the farm. They shared a bond.”
“Back then, Sarah and Debbie were like this,” Wes chimed in, crossing his middle and index fingers. “Debbie would be in the kitchen and Sarah would serve the food for everybody. She was a big help.”
“Remember that, Sarah?” Debbie asked.
“Maybe I should do that now,” Sarah joked.
Yes, she’s still quick on the trigger with a joke that might catch you off guard.
But if there’s one trait that everyone around the manor brings up when asked about Sarah, it’s humility.
Asked what she was hoping for to mark the special birthday, she paused for a moment.
“I’m not sure I need anything. I’m just happy to see my friends and my family.”
She did get one gift early that put a big smile on her face: a letter from Queen Elizabeth wishing her a happy birthday.
“That’s extra special,” Shantz said.