Florence Canonic said she doesn't do enough. She made that declaration on a day she had just returned from serving at the Reno Nevada Temple, which she does every week. Patrons often arrive to her cheerful smile or see her checking reservation lists. Most often, she is doing work for her husband's ancestors. Her side of the family is done much farther back than his. And since Bert Canonic died nine years ago, she feels it's her responsibility to continue work on his line.
In addition, her March visiting teaching was done by the middle of the month. She often helps the Relief Society of the Reno (Nev.) 2nd Ward look after "the old folks."
It seems that the 99-year-old is plenty busy. Slow down? That's not in her genes, she said.
"My mother had 11 children and six of us have lived over 90. We were raised on a farm, so we had plenty to eat and lots of hard work, but it was pleasant. I loved it. I had good parents," she said during a telephone interview.
Sister Canonic was born Feb. 8, 1902, in Hyde Park, Utah, to Sarah Alice Woolf and George Lyon. She's among a select group of Latter-day Saints whose fathers crossed the plains in a wagon. He was 4 years old at the time. Sister Canonic has served as a counselor in a ward Relief Society presidency, as a Sunday School teacher and as Sunday School secretary. For 27 years, she taught school in the Reno area.
A letter from a fellow ward member, Barbara Foote, described the nonagenarian: "Sister Canonic is a delight. She helps the Relief Society sisters take meals to those who are ill. She lives alone, drives her own car, attends her meetings and is always cheerful, in style and perfectly groomed. Her home is lovely and well cared for. Her sense of humor and cheerful nature bless all who know her."
Sister Canonic is the last of her brothers and sisters living, but she has a cousin, Cleo Cranney Hinckley, who is 110 years old. (Please see Dec. 16, 2000, Church News.)
"I'm so grateful," Sister Canonic said, not only speaking of her longevity, but also her health and love for life. "Remaining active is the main thing. And a good diet. Too many people don't watch their diets carefully and take too many pills. I haven't taken a pill in years. Everybody asks, 'What kind of vitamin do you take?' I say, 'I don't take any. I get it in the food I eat.' "
She emphasized the importance of those in their senior years doing some form of exercise. "They don't think they have to exercise except in their rocking chair."
From the sound of things, it seems Sister Canonic hasn't stopped moving since the day she was born. It's a wonder her five grandchildren, 14 great-grandchildren and seven great-great-grandchildren can keep up with her. She's looking forward to one great-grandson, Elder Stephen Canonic, returning in June from his mission in Poland.
"I miss them," she said, speaking of her family, many of whom live in Arizona. She and her husband have one son, Keith Canonic, who keeps in close contact with his mother and helps her with family history research. Brother and Sister Canonic were married in 1927 in Carson City, Nev., and sealed in the Oakland California Temple in 1958.
Despite the advancing years, there is one other activity Sister Canonic does not give up traveling. "I love to travel. I enjoy it, and I learn a lot. When I go, I see beautiful things and interesting places."
She enjoys getting her slide viewer out and looking at pictures of trips through the years to Australia, New Zealand other Pacific islands, Mexico, Europe, the Holy Land, Japan, Jakarta and the Philippines. "Nearly every summer when I wasn't teaching school and after Bert retired, we went around the United States. We've been every place except the southeastern states. Nearly every summer [when Keith was young], we went on an automobile trip around here, to Yellowstone and all those places. After Bert retired, we started going to foreign countries."
For their 50th wedding anniversary, the Canonics went to Alaska, and went there another time with their son and his wife. "We took a trip out on the lake and saw the icebergs and saw the calving of the icebergs, and seals floating on the broken pieces. It was so beautiful."
Sister Canonic has one regret. She never learned to scuba dive. She remembers a trip to Bora Bora and seeing the coral and fish life through the bottom of a glass-bottomed boat. "We spent a couple hours out there and I could have stayed a lifetime."
However, the most important destination for anyone, she said, is the temple. That's where she comes in for those who can't make it there by themselves. She does their proxy work "because I want them there."
Her husband's family came from Switzerland, where many relatives still live. "We went there one summer, and they were such lovely people. We gave them the Book of Mormon in their language, but it didn't do anything for them. I felt real sad; they wouldn't even talk about it.
"There were some of his aunts who were just delightful. In the meantime they have died, and we've done the work for them. If these other people pass away, we'll do it for them, too. I did one today for Bert's cousin. He had an aunt he just loved. She was just like a second mother to him. I did her work, and it made me feel good to do it."
Now Sister Canonic and her son are working on Bert's cousin's family line. "My son's going to get her husband's genealogy, and we'll seal them."
With the Church News interview done, it was evening time. Sister Canonic still had plans. "I'm reading a good book."
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