99 years old and not done yet 0
When you are listed in the 2012 Guinness World Book of Records (GWBR) for
race car driving at age 90, that's an amazing feat in life, yet Jeannie
Reiman has done much more and loves to tell about it. The 98 year old who
will turn 99 on April 19, wakes up each morning with a smile on her face and
eager to start a new adventure.
"I am very lucky to have all my marbles and converse with people and go out
a lot," said Reiman who lives with her daughter Wendy Roper in
"I have a wonderful life - it's just perfect. I live every day to the
fullest and enjoy spending time with my daughter. We are like sisters and
she includes me in everything she does. I love to go with her and her
friends all treat me like I am one of the group. I would hope that all
mothers and daughters have a relationship like ours - if not they don't know
what they are missing."
Reiman says she and Wendy have a strong friendship and they've been "mates"
since she was born. In fact her daughter has always called her 'Jeannie' and
never mom. In keeping up with Wendy, the 99 year old has done things most
seniors or younger people for that matter, would never think of doing. Just
two years ago when they were home visiting New Zealand, the mother and
daughter got tattoos. At 97 Reiman is likely the oldest person to have two
permanent butterflies on her ankle.
It was this same competitive instinct that earned her a place as the oldest
race car driver in the 2012 GWBR - at the time Reiman was helping out as a
pit crew member at the race track. The year before her big race Roper was
writing a book about 'Track Talk' and as member of the Canadian Vintage
Modified's Racing Club, wanted to a race a car and include the experience in
"I did it and won so Jeannie says to me, 'if you can do it, I can do it when
I am 90' and she did. She competed in the Canadian Vintage Modified's ten
lap 'Powder Puff Race' at Sunset Speedway in Stroud Ontario on August 3,
2003 aged 90 years and 106 days old. To get it in 2012 GWBR I had to work
backwards and get all the records and documents together because they were
not there when she set the record," said Roper.
"Jeannie has always been active and worked with me in Oakville at my
husband's chiropractor office until 1997 - ten hours a day, three days a
week. We had to keep the business going after my husband got cancer and we
lost our jobs when he died. After that she began volunteering and joined
craft groups. I believe that keeping active and knowing that she has
something new to do each day has kept her motivated and interested in life.
Jeannie has a little date book with all of her upcoming events so she has
something to look forward to each day. That, and her daily routine of
dressing smart, have her hair done nice, wearing perfume and a little
make-up every day. She still puts nail polish on and never goes without
earrings and lots of rings on her fingers."
The Penetanguishene elder agrees looking at life in the long term keeps her
young and has already booked a flight to Windsor in December to watch the
Canadian Skating competition - one of her favourite pass times over the
years whether from home in front of the television or on location no matter
where the event is taking place.
"She's not intending to the kick the bucket before we go to Windsor - we've
already paid for the tickets. We are very interested in figure skating and
like to follow it. We went out west this year to Moncton and Victoria BC in
January last year to watch the skating," laughed Roper.
"We meet up with the same people every year and Jeannie loves it that she is
so accepted in a group where no one thinks of her as 'old'. She used to go
to Florida every year and watch it on television but when she came back
because I go, she has been going to the skating events for two or three
years now. Her favourite is World Champion Patrick Chan, who we have watched
since he was a junior."
Reiman's mind is a sharp as a tack and she harbours many fond memories of
growing up in New Zealand and during the 72 years she spent there. As a
child her family had the first Model T Ford in Auckland and Reimer at age 13
got up before dawn each day, crank the car and fill the radiator to drive
her father work.
"You didn't need a licence back then. My father was a baker and had to be
there at 4 a.m. and it wasn't busy on the roads then. When you wanted to
turn right, you stuck your hand out the window," said Reiman.
"When I went to church with my mother and father on Sundays, we went in
horse and buggy using the same horse that was used to deliver the bread
during the week. My father figured out that the driver was making daily
stops at the pub when every Sunday the horse would stop dead as he passed
there, and then bolt into a gallop all the way home to make up the lost
Before she had her daughter Wendy at age 35, Reiman lost four baby boys so
the bond between them was strong. During a time when women stayed home and
only men worked, the doting mom decided she would take a job without telling
her husband so she could buy her daughter a scooter.
"When I was five she went to work and I was sworn to secrecy - thank God for
pressure cookers. Every day she would pick me up and run home to get the
meal ready. After about nine months she finally told my dad she was working
and continued to do so. She ran a Lighting Firm called Barry Lights for
several years," said Roper smiling at the memory of her mother's mad rush to
cook the dinner.
In her last few years as a New Zealander, Reiman took part in the famous
Auckland 'Round the Bays' race as a senior competitor. Wearing a track suit
one year that Wendy had sent her from Canada, people thought she was wearing
"There were thousands of people in the run - so many it used to take a
quarter of an hour to get over the start line. One time she actually got
separated from where she was supposed to meet my father and he finally found
her at the Lost Children location," said Roper.
"Jeannie-kins has been involved in sports her whole life and I think that is
one of the things that has helped her stay in such good health - she was a
championship sprinter and the first hurdler in Auckland to stop and jump
like the men do. She also belonged to the first rowing club and team in New
Zealand. She says she joined not for the club but because she liked the
rowers which were mainly men, and that's we here she met my father."
Coming to Canada she did not miss the warmer climate and loved the snow and
took over the task of shovelling the driveway much to the embarrassment of
Wendy's husband Arnold. Currently she belongs to two local craft groups
weekly, attends rehabilitation and rides a stationary bike on a regular
basis to help her keep limber and following a broken hip and two hip
replacements. While she uses a walker to help with balance around the house,
the 99 years old can still walk on her own, get herself up and down from
chairs with ease, can still walk up and down the stairs to the lower level
of her home where she is surrounded by "her things", watches television,
keeps busy doing plastic canvas needlework and completing word search
As for longevity there are several things that Reiman believes have helped
her live such a long life, aside from keeping active, she won't eat any kind
of meat with legs and every day at 4 p.m. enjoys a gin and tonic and a
Bailey's after dinner just because she "likes the taste of it".
Roper attributes her mother's longevity to her belief in the power of
positive thinking and her quality of life.
"She was a great mother to me growing up, supportive and always there for
me. Now it's the other way around and I am happy to be always there for her.
I think that Jeannie's quality of life is one of the reasons she is still so
vibrant and living each day to its fullest," said Roper.
Next year when she celebrates her 100th birthday, she will have special
guests from New Zealand including some relatives she only found out about in
later life. Adopted by a great aunt when her parents passed away, on-line
recently Reiman learned she had three half-sisters and during her recent
visit to New Zealand found a great-nephew who incidentally has a sister
named 'Wendy-Jean' who was born just two months after her daughter.
"She was named after us both and we didn't even know about each other - Life
has some funny turns," said Reimer.
Before she suffered a mild stroke last year and lost some movement on her
right side, Reimer used a computer to email and keep in touch with friends
and relatives. She continues to enjoy each day and looks forward to her
upcoming birthday celebration with friends.