Sitting by the school’s front door, 95-year-old Alice Patnode was the first line of defense against troublemakers at Porter Creek Secondary last week.
“They didn’t give me a gun, but there was a belt with some flashlights on it,” the volunteer joked while taking a break from her final shift at the school on Thursday afternoon.
With decades of experience as a schoolteacher under that belt, Patnode is no stranger to peacekeeping.
But with few pests to deal with at the wheelchair basketball venue, she spent more time making friends and finishing crossword puzzles than she did keeping the peace.
“I’m 95, but that’s nothing these days,” she said over a coffee on Thursday afternoon.
“Everybody is 95 now — you have to be at least 100 to get any attention.”
With brilliant white hair, a wide grin and hearty laugh, Patnode looks like she’s closer to 60 than 90.
The only factors that give away her age are her decades of experiences and her tireless commitment to her community.
Volunteering comes naturally to the 95-year-old Whitehorse artist.
“I have volunteered all my life,” said Patnode.
Since ’62 she’s given her time to the hospital’s women’s auxiliary. And she was a founding member of Yukon Art Society in 1970.
So when the city needed her to help the Games go off without a hitch, she was one of the first to step forward.
Over the Games’ two weeks she logged 24 hours of volunteering.
“I was a little worried that there would be a mix-up somewhere, but I think everybody’s happy,” she said.
“And because of the cold weather, people are going to go home happy as can be saying I survived 40 below,” she added with a laugh.
They say the third time’s a charm, and it took Patnode as many tries to land the volunteer gig she wanted.
The first job they offered her — checking parking meters — was not a good fit.
With the kilometers of walking and the plummeting temperatures, Patnode declined the post and asked for a new assignment.
Then they tried to put her in the store at the Canada Games Centre.
But she wanted a job that gave her the chance to get to know people and greet visitors to the city.
So they suited her in an orange jacket and put her on security.
An avid curler for most of her life, Patnode attributes her longevity to good old-fashioned eating right, but nothing too stringent.
“Lots of fruits and vegetables and a little meat.”
Just three years ago she was walking two-kilometre trails in a half-hour, but a nasty fall while turning off her garden hose left her with a broken hip that’s now on the mend.
With the help of a cane Patnode has little trouble navigating the high school’s hallways, although she’s slowed down a little because of some stiffness in her legs.
She’s caught a lot of the Games’ sports on TV and has poked her head into Porter Creek’s gym to watch some of the wheelchair basketball games.
“It’s amazing, eh?” she said. “They’re so good at it, too.”
Although she enjoys watching sports, her heart lies with the arts.
A painter, Patnode’s mediums of choice are oils and watercolours.
Currently, she’s preparing for a show at the Art Society gallery in the Arts Underground that’s scheduled to open on March 17.
And along with her artistic accomplishments, Patnode has received a handful of awards for her volunteer efforts over the years.
In 2001, she won the Yukon Commissioner’s Award for her volunteer work at Whitehorse General Hospital and her tireless dedication to promoting arts in the territory.
In 1991, she was the sole recipient of a Whitehorse volunteer award paying tribute to her work.
And in ’93 she was one of four in BC and Yukon honoured with a Lescarbot Award, which pays tribute to outstanding cultural volunteers and benefactors.
But Patnode wouldn’t be the first to brag about her impressive resume.
“I don’t know why anyone would want to talk to me,” she said.
“I wasn’t expecting any of this,” she added with a smile.