Mary Dopson ‘Keep Moving Forward’

Mary Dopson ‘Keep Moving Forward’

Written and Photographed by Trina Moran



An inspiring and warm-hearted woman, Mary Dopson sees the world as a race. A race she definitely is leading. At 93, she has seen the world evolve and values the importance of community and keeping up a healthy, positive attitude towards everyone and everything that comes her way.

Originally from Scotland, Mary grew up in Winnipeg and resided there for sixty years. ‘It’s COLD.’ remarks Mary when I ask her what Winnipeg is like. A part from Winnipeg’s ice-like temperatures, Mary recalls her glory days of being an athletic runner in the late 1930’s. In 1936 she won 1st place in the Women’s Broad Jump and 2nd in the Women’s 100m, both ‘in the same day’, Mary boasts. That year she qualified for the 1936 Summer Olympic Games in Berlin. Unfortunately due to the Depression, Mary was informed that she would have to pay her own passage to Berlin, and could not attend. Nearly eighty years later, Mary seems just as excited about her accomplishments as she was when she was 18. Dopson smiles and remarks ‘I’m just an old has-been.’ I tell her, ‘It’s better to be a has-been than a never-been.’ Mary stopped running competitively in 1940 due to the outbreak of WWII and to start a family. Recently in 2009, Mary competed in the B.C. Senior’s Games in Richmond in the 100m dash against other seniors 90 and over. Proof that her sporting spirit thrives. She was also honoured during the 2009 B. C. Senior Games in Vancouver by being invited to march with the torch.

In 1980 Mary moved to Vancouver to be closer to her sons and in search of ‘better weather.’ She has also resided in Kerrisdale since 1980. When asked what she liked best about Kerrisdale, Mary had trouble choosing one thing. ‘Everything’, she says. She speaks highly of the Senior’s Centre and its two thousand members. There, she is 1 of 5 Chair Members, and is also one of the original Charter Members of the Senior’s Centre. This is where Mary spends much of her time these days. Here she and her fellow Chair Members organize events, lunches, teas, and activities specially catered to seniors in the Kerrisdale community. Mary is also an avid knitter knitting hats, tea cosies, and ‘furniture socks’ for the boutique store located in the Senior’s Centre. Off to the side of her cozy living room, are two dolls of intricate design which are hand made by Mary. I also have to add that she knits the most adorable strawberry hats for children that I have ever seen.  If there was ever a contest for competitive knitting, I’d be cheering for Mary all the way.

When Mary is not busy at the Senior’s Centre, she likes to watch television, drink tea, listen to 40’s big band music, go to Scottish Country dances, and read up on research projects at the University of British Columbia.

In May of 2008 Mary had hip replacement surgery. From how many times she jumped up from her couch to show me pictures, past articles, and to make tea, during the interview I never would have guessed it. Her ‘use it or lose it’ attitude shines through when asked about her recovery from the surgery. ‘If you do the exercises after the operation you can get your mobility back’. Mary stresses heavily the importance of keeping up with the exercises and strongly advises others recovering from joint replacement surgery to follow them religiously.

I asked Mary what is her advice to healthy living. She advises that the key to being healthy and longevity is exercise, eating healthy, getting eight hours of sleep each night, drinking lots of water, and to look for humour. ‘I like humour. Do you like humour?’ she asks me as she laughs cheerfully and eats segments of her Mandarin orange. ‘You’ve got to keep as healthy as can be. I’ve kept that all my life.’ Mary feels too many people these days do not have enough incentive to keep healthy. If anyone ever needs tips on keeping healthy, I’d seek Mary. I want to be able to touch my toes at 93.

With a sea of knowledge and stories behind her sparkling smile, Mary Dopson proves that with the right attitude and perseverance, even the biggest obstacles can be overcome and the finish line is not as far away as we think. She is a pioneer of women in sports in Canada and is an inspirational figure to everyone in the Kerrisdale community.