Still laughing at 100 years old, Jean Morrison never lets age stand in her way
One doesn’t have to spend much time with Jean Morrison to discover why the 100-year-old Vankleek Hill woman is so popular with Montréal radio listeners.
Quick-witted and always ready with a joke, Morrison is never at a loss for words in an interview. Her hearing is also perfect, although her eyesight has failed over the years.
“I see you there, but I wouldn’t know what you looked like if I saw you again,” she explains to a reporter from The Review on a visit to her home at Heritage Lodge in Vankleek Hill.
Morrison has lived a fascinating life – traveling the world as an oral historian, a curator at two museums, and working as a scientist. But it is her energy, outlook on life, and constant joking that draw one into the conversation.
“People ask ‘how do you live to be 100?’ – you’ve got to laugh,” Morrison says. “Because so many things happen in life that may be negative, but there’s lots of fun things too.”
“I never kept a diary,” she says of her century of memories, “but I always wrote down the funny things that happened in my life.”
Away from the hustle and bustle
Morrison worked at Montréal’s Royal Victoria Hospital after graduating from McGill University in 1943, with a degree in Science. She married her husband Jim in 1944, after the couple moved to Newfoundland, where Jim served in the Canadian Navy. They moved to Montreal in the 1960s with their four children.
In 1967 – wanting to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city – Jean and Jim purchased a farm in the small community of Como, Québec.
“We thought if we bought a farm we’d get back to the earth,” Morrison smiles, before breaking into peals of laughter. “Neither Jim nor I knew one thing about farming!”
Despite their lack of agricultural knowledge, the couple raised goats, lambs, and chickens.
“Twenty-five hundred to 3,000 chickens!” Morrison exclaims. “Total ignorance, but we thought it would be good for the children – and it was.”
The couple sold their farm and moved to Vankleek Hill in 1973, as their children were now in their late teens.
What attracted them to Vankleek Hill?
“Actually, the income tax,” Morrison chuckles.
The couple lived almost a quarter century on their farm south of Vankleek Hill, integrating into the community as if they had been here all of their lives. They sold the farm in 1996 when Jim was in poor health, moving to Pointe-Claire, Québec. He passed away in December of 1996, and Jean continued to live in Pointe-Claire, until moving to Winnipeg to be closer to family a decade ago. She moved to Heritage Lodge in November of 2022.
Super Bowl dancing goes viral
In February of 2022, while still living in Winnipeg, Jean was watching the Super Bowl halftime show – featuring Snoop Dogg, with guests Dr. Dre, Eminem, Mary J. Blige, and Kendrick Lamar – when the then 99-year-old did something unexpected.
“The music came on, and I started to dance,” Morrison recalls. “It had a great beat.”
Her grandson Alexander took a video to send to the family. Another grandson, Mike Morrison, then uploaded the video to Twitter. His post immediately went viral, picking up hundreds of thousands of views overnight and now has more than 2.6 million views. Add in the sharing of the video on other platforms such as YouTube, by the National Football League, and even Snoop Dogg himself, and the video has been seen by tens of millions of people all over the world. You can watch the video on YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u0uMnQ9_fxQ .
Jean’s interviews with various media outlets in 2022 after her Super Bowl dancing went viral included one with CJAD’s 800 AM Radio’s ‘Montréal Now with Aaron Rand and Natasha Hall’. Rand and Hall invited her back on their program prior to the 2023 Super Bowl, and again after, to get her thoughts on this year’s halftime show, featuring Rihanna. As in 2022, the energetic centenarian was a big hit with CJAD listeners.
Jean didn’t enjoy the 2023 Super Bowl halftime show as much as the previous year, but was reluctant to share that information on air.
“I didn’t want to be negative,” she explains. “But I couldn’t get the rhythm of what they were playing.”
“I’m blaming it on my age.”
Defying her age through constant learning
When she isn’t entertaining millions around the world with her dancing, or being interviewed on TV and radio, Jean keeps busy each day and never lets her age or eyesight hold her back.
“Reading, history, and biology have been my forte forever,” enthuses Morrison, who for 46 years traveled as an oral historian all over the world, including China.
A large magnifier is set up on a desk to allow her to read books.
“I can only read four words at a time, but it’s doable,” she says.
Defying her age is nothing new for Morrison, who went back to get her Master’s Degree in History at Concordia University when she was 70 years old.
“It’s the easiest thing I ever did in my life,” she says of going back to school as a senior. “You’re not worried about a date on Saturday night, you’re not worried about money, and it’s not going to be the end of your life if you don’t get the degree. So you just go there and you absorb all the information.”
A compliment to the women of Vankleek Hill
Over the years, Jean got to know many of the women in Vankleek Hill, and she has nothing but high regard for the female population of the village. At the end of the interview, Morrison goes out of her way to pay a compliment to the women of the village.
“I just want to say how wonderful the women here were. They were wonderful mothers, wonderful wives, and wonderful people.”