‘It provides me incentive’: Guelph lady makes use of milestone birthday to assist folks in want

Lilla Eperjesi, right, an employee in MPP Mike Schreiner’s office, joins Orpha Thrasher on Day 11 of Thrasher’s 100-day journey to her 100th birthday. Thrasher is walking every day leading up to her milestone birthday on Feb. 1, 2022, in order to raise mon

For Guelph resident Orpha Thrasher, walking just may be the secret to longevity and youthfulness — and as she anticipates her 100th birthday, she’ll be getting some extra steps in for a good cause.

“Because I’m still walking, I might as well do something to help people before I leave this world,” says Thrasher.

The 99-year-old will mark a century of life on Feb. 1, 2022, and she’s counting down the days by walking every day and asking that people support her by donating money to local poverty relief organization HOPE House.

“It gives me incentive, which sometimes you need,” Thrasher says.

The hope is to turn this milestone birthday into a project to help the less fortunate in the community. People can contribute online at donate-can.keela.co/orphas-journey-to-100.

Her journey of 100 days — 100 days to reach 100 years — began on Sept. 18 with a walk at Riverside Park, where her family had secretly had a bench installed to commemorate her 100th birthday.

“I was absolutely blown away,” says Thrasher of her surprise upon seeing the bench for the first time.

In the park there is a tree dedicated to the memory of her late husband, Ivan Thrasher, and it was especially meaningful to her to be able to sit on the bench and see that tree, she says.

She credits him with giving her the walking bug.

“My husband and I used to walk every morning at the mall,” she recalls. “I really got the walking thing from him.”

Though Orpha was born on a farm between Elora and Elmira, she and Ivan spent much of their married life in the Windsor area, where they had five children and where Orpha worked as a nurse and later as an agent in Ivan’s real estate brokerage.

“I was actually the leading salesman one year,” she recalls with a laugh.

She also recalls tougher times when Ivan served briefly as a member of Parliament, spending his weekdays in Toronto, while Orpha continued to work in the real estate office and look after home and children with help from a babysitter and a cleaning lady.

The Thrashers eventually came to Wellington County when they took up horse farming, and later settled in Guelph to be closer to city amenities.

Orpha also eventually returned to nursing, working at the Oxford Lodge retirement home until she was 75.

“It sounds like it was very brave to work till 75, but it wasn’t,” says Orpha, noting the work was part-time and was work she enjoyed.

Her nursing experience was something that came in useful in her husband’s final days. Ivan, like Orpha, lived a long life, making it to the age of 96.

“If he’d lived another two months, we’d have been married 65 years,” she says.

In their time together, they journeyed near and far, with Orpha recalling trips to Hong Kong, Japan, Ireland, mainland Europe and more.

In her current 100-day journey, she’ll be walking mostly in Guelph parks and trails.

“We’ve been trying to cover places in Guelph that people would recognize,” Orpha says.

She recently walked Guelph’s 100 Steps, she says, discovering that there are actually significantly more than 100 steps to the Ward 1 landmark.

“There’s so many places around Guelph to walk,” she says.

Riverside Park and Woodlawn Memorial Park are among her favourites, because she loves the trees, she says.

But she’ll also walk indoors on the track at the Royal Distributing Athletic Performance Centre when the weather is less fair.

It seems she’ll never have to walk alone. Her daughter, Shelley Thrasher, who helped her organize the project, says there have been multiple requests from people wanting to join her on her daily walks, including one from Guelph Mayor Cam Guthrie and local MP Lloyd Longfield.

Local MPP Mike Schreiner joined her on Day 1 of her 100-day project.

“Everyone wants to go for a walk with Orpha,” says Shelley.

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