BARRY’S BAY – A local woman born and raised in the valley celebrated her 100th birthday with a surprise party on May 12.
Helen Dombroskie (née Lorbetski) was greeted by close friends and family at a gathering at the Opeongo Seniors Centre that afternoon.
Her birthday is on May 14, but her daughter, Marie Nicholas, said Helen was expecting a party to be on Sunday. When she entered the building on Saturday, she was shocked to see everyone gathered to celebrate the milestone.
Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke MPP John Yakabuski even stopped in for a visit.
Helen was born in 1912 in Hagarty Township, close to Wilno. She grew up on a farm with 15 siblings – nine girls and six boys. She was the daughter of Jacob Lorbetski and Victoria Recoskie.
The sharp centenarian can still recall what life was like growing up on the farm. Helen is completely Kashubian; her grandparents hail from the nation in Poland.
When she was of age, she remembers being called to enter the convent. So, she boarded a train and went to the Sisters of St. Joseph house in Pembroke. But three years later, when Helen was supposed to take her final vows, she decided that religious life was not for her.
Helen instead wanted a family. So she married Peter Dombroskie when she was 21. In the years to follow, she had six children. Only two are alive today.
The family was originally living on a farm near Hopefield until 1955, when they decided to move to Barry’s Bay. Helen took up a midwife position with Dr. Pat Dooley. She established an in-house clinic to help mothers deliver babies.
Over the years, she helped deliver hundreds of children. When St. Francis Memorial Hospital was established, she operated her service out of the maternity ward.
She was integral in the formation of a seniors group in Barry’s Bay. In 1974 she helped form the Opeongo Trail Blazers, a group that she chaired and was involved in for 14 years. The group grew and grew, and eventually, required a building. So the Opeongo Seniors Centre was constructed.
Speaking from that very building during the party, she said she has stayed young by working hard and enjoying every minute of it.
Story continues in the May 16 issue of The Valley Gazette.