Hamilton woman survived 2 pandemics, WW II bombings — and wants 106 birthday cards

·2 min read
Ann Konkel of Hamilton dons a pink birthday hat for her 106th. She hopes to receive a birthday card for every year of her life. (Bobby Hristova/CBC - image credit)
Ann Konkel of Hamilton dons a pink birthday hat for her 106th. She hopes to receive a birthday card for every year of her life. (Bobby Hristova/CBC - image credit)

It's not every day someone gets a visit from a troop of police horses to mark a birthday.

But it's also not every day someone turns 106.

For Ann Konkel, that was her Wednesday.

Bobby Hristova/CBC
Bobby Hristova/CBC

Now, the Hamilton woman wants 106 birthday cards to commemorate her annual celebration.

"She's so happy," said Konkel's daughter-in-law, Robin.

Ann sat in her wheelchair outside St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton, where she was greeted by family, police horses, the local police chief and hospital workers who have cared for her since early 2020.

A remarkable life

Born in 1915 in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, she survived the Spanish flu, which started in 1918, when she was three.

Ann also lived through the Second World War while Rotterdam was bombed by the Nazis. Her father died of starvation.

Her family said she met her future husband, Edward, during the war. He survived prisoner of war camps and concentration camps. Her family says he emerged a decorated member of the Polish resistance.

Submitted by Laura Konkel
Submitted by Laura Konkel

Ann and Edward married and moved to Hamilton in 1952. Her family said they lived in a rooming house, buying each room until they owned the whole lot. Ann worked as a cleaning lady, while her husband worked at Stelco.

She eventually retrained and became an operating-room nurse at Henderson Hospital.

Her husband died in the 1990s, but she continued living in their home.

Submitted by Laura Konkel
Submitted by Laura Konkel

Ann's family said that, up until a few years ago, she was still volunteering with the Catholic Women's League and the Good Shepherd.

She was living on her own at home until she fell in early 2020. She has been in the hospital ever since, and Robin said Ann won't be able to leave.

"She went down to 85 pounds. They put her on a feeding tube ... but she's back up to 117 pounds and she's thriving. And they're so good to her in the hospital," Robin said.

Birthday cards will keep Konkel going

Since then, Ann has been well. She also received her two COVID-19 vaccine doses and had no side-effects, Robin said.

On Wednesday, Ann's friend of almost two decades, June Najbor, visited with roses.

"She's a good friend ... I come to see her when I can," said the 85-year-old and former president of the Catholic Women's League.

Bobby Hristova/CBC
Bobby Hristova/CBC

Last year, Ann received more than 2,000 cards for her 105th birthday.

"The cards kept her going," Robin said. "We read them all to her ... she looks better this year than last year."

Chief Frank Bergen said the police service is eager to bring the horses and see the birthday girl again next year.

Ann summed up her birthday in three words: "Grateful, very grateful."

Anyone wanting to send a birthday card to her can mail them to: P.O. Box 10066, Don Mills, Ont., M3C 0J9.

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