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Local family celebrates 'miracle' of five generations

Family matriarch and great-great-grandmother 'Chiefy' Davis and great-grandmother Heather Burling share their joy over the newest family member, and look back at how times have changed over the generations

It was a touching and emotional moment as a Newmarket family gathered at the hospital on the day of the total eclipse to celebrate the arrival of their fifth generation.

Family matriarch Margaret ‘Chiefy’ Davis is now the great-great-grandmother of William David Andrew Mihalik, who was born on April 8 in North York.

They are overjoyed to see their family tree extend.

“I thought it was a miracle,” said great-grandmother Heather Burling, 80. “To think I’m a great-grandmother, and (Margaret) is a great-great-grandmother is really quite a time.”

Burling and Davis, who turns 102 years old in June, sat down to discuss the arrival of baby William and how times have changed in the span from first to fifth generation.

The family arrived in Newmarket in 1946 after the Second World War. They never left.

“The little guy has made me into a celebrity,” said Davis. “Quite a few people have come to me since I was 100 asking me how I lived to be 100. I told them I was a good girl.”

Mihalik was welcomed into the world at Humber River Hospital in the arms of his mother, Bridget Mihalik, 26, surrounded by his grandmother, Monica Burling, 56, Heather, his great grandmother, and Margaret, his great great grandmother.

“They are fine, pretty tired,” said Burling this week. “They don’t keep them in the hospital very long like they used to. Robert (the father) took two weeks' holiday.”

Davis lived through the Great Depression in 1929, the polio outbreak in the 1930s, and, more recently, the COVID-19 pandemic. She remembers hearing stories about parents losing their jobs during the economic collapse before the start of the Second World War.

“Men were going off to war, and women were taking jobs to fill in,” said Davis. “People, I think, got married younger because the guys were going away and there was a sense of urgency that they might not get back.”

Davis was born in Ottawa and lived in Toronto, where she met her husband, Keith. Her grandson, David, and his wife, Monica, operate Keith Davis Engravers & Awards. It is a third-generation trophy and awards store established in 1953.

Davis hopes young people today do not load up their credit cards, which can cause stress. They always paid cash, she recalled, and did not even have a TV until later in life.

“She wouldn’t let us watch TV until I was 19 and off to Guelph,” said Burling. “We had to help work in the store and we were out playing tennis.”

Davis attributes her longevity to never tasting alcohol in her life. She, however, said she had many health issues.

“I had so many things wrong with me in my lifetime,” said Davis. “It’s unbelievable. I can start rhyming off all the things. I had polio, diphtheria, back operations.”

She played tennis growing up and now walks up and down stairs to remain active. She also drinks Ensure bottles and takes B12 shots.

Davis finds the best years were the '50s and '60s, times were simpler back then. They were able to purchase their first house in Newmarket for $4,600, selling it for $1.7 million three years ago.

Burling’s father, however, was only making $30 a week at the time.

“Everything in the world seemed so much better then,” said Burling. “There wasn’t the pressure like there is on the young people today with all the technology and bullying.”

With children now staying inside, using their iPads, they remember always playing outside.

“We used to go out and play until the lights came on and nobody seemed to worry,” said Davis.

“Nowadays when you look out, you hardly see a kid out on the street alone,” added Burling.

Davis unwinds by reading newspapers and watching sports. She owns a Baltimore Ravens jersey signed by quarterback Lamar Jackson and a Winnipeg Jets ring.