Lise Breton, her 72-year-old daughter, is astonished by the good physical condition of her mother. "I never thought that mom would be in such beautiful form at the dawn of her 104 years," she said.
Rose Lamothe-Breton listens to this remark while laughing. "I am in good health," she said, noting that she has had respiratory problems for some time. "The doctor cannot find anything. He said to me that he has never seen a woman of my age in such good shape. Perhaps my vast journey has made me breathless. I have taken such a long road. When one gets more wisdom, one also loses speed."
Music keeps Lamothe-Breton busy and that has had a rejuvenating effect on her. Such an active longevity surely has a recipe. "I play music each day and I have small projects, but no long-term plans," she said with a radiant smile.
The life of Rose Lamothe-Breton is permeated with music, which is without question her trademark and her resourcefulness. At age nine, she played the piano and learned the basics. She started a large family and composed melodies, including those which were played for her children at bed time.
"We were raised on classical music," said Lise Breton, one of Rose's seven children. "It was an outlet for my mother, who was busy with everything at home, in addition to working and attending to us."
At age 73, Lamothe-Breton offered her musical talents at weddings and other receptions, combining popular music with classical ones. "For 10 years, she traveled by car, sometimes to Quebec, with a trailer containing these imposing instruments," said Lise. "The last time that I played at a reception, it was for a priest!" said Rose, suddenly remembering, with a burst of laughter, her most memorable moment at a reception at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel, in Montreal, where she played the organ.
For a long time Lamothe-Breton accompanied singers at concerts in seniors' residences. At 80, she took courses in violin and regrets not having done so earlier. "I would certainly have become a violinist," she said.
After having spent six years at Le Tournesol Residence in Bordeaux Cartierville, Rose moved to Manoir Saint-Laurent last December. She is now closer to Lise who lives in the same area. They can now see each other more often, almost every day. "Moreover, there is more care here," said Lise Breton, who is more at ease having her mother closer to her.
The transition to a new surrounding did not change any of the habits of Rose Lamothe-Breton. She plays music for residents during supper. People can even ask for her on Sunday. An organ was installed in the dining room in the residence, which also has a piano, while her own piano is in her living room. Her violin is nearby, tucked away among the many boxes from having moved.
Even if the Manoir has two women centenarians, one at 100 and another at 106 years of age, Lamothe-Breton arrived there in the spotlight. In 2005 she took part in La Poule aux oeufs d'or and more recently was called by Radio Canada. "Radio Canada called the residence before her arrival, so that she could take part in a December 11 program, Droit au Coeur, hosted by France Castel," said her daughter Lise.
Asked by her residence to play music, Rose Lamothe-Breton devotes herself entirely to her art. "I do not even have time to play bingo," she said. "I tried cards one time at Tournesol, but this game interrupted the preparation of my music."
Born in 1903, Lamothe-Breton did not always have easy times in her life. She lost a baby in 1922 following a forest fire in Ontario which devastated the small village of Temiscaming where she lived. Without help, the small family took refuge in a house where snow entered through the roof. The small child did not survive under these conditions. "It was great misery, but I am still here and did not die from that," she said.
With 48 descendants, Rose Lamothe-Breton's legacy will surely be her music, but not immediately. While waiting, she will have her agile hands on her instruments, giving great pleasure to her audience while being attentive and delighted at the same time. <@S2>(Translated by Michael Beigleman)