This is a story of celebrations, of taking as much pleasure in the small things as the large things, of gratitude and blessings. It's a story of small kindnesses and big hearts, of cherishing each day and seeing the good in everyone. Above all, it's a story of friendship and the power it has to make each of us - and the world we live in - a little bit better.
Kay Charter has plenty of memories and many friendships to look back on.
She's had 100 years to accumulate them, after all.
Kay was born on Jan. 18, 1912. Tomorrow, she'll be gathering with friends and family to officially mark the special milestone.
Some of her dearest friends and family won't be there: Jean, the lifelong friend she made as a child homesteading in Alberta; her son Dennis who, sadly, passed away three years ago.
But others - her "very, very wonderful daughter" Laraine and son-in-law Barry, her many grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and scores of friends - will celebrate with her.
Among them will be Mangla Bansal, a young Burnaby woman who shares a special friendship with Kay, one that sometimes surprises other people because of the differences in age and cultural backgrounds.
Their paths crossed in an unusual way, with the Burnaby NOW playing a small part in the events that led them to each other.
But this story begins many years ago - far from Burnaby and more than seven decades before Mangla was even born.
Kay came to Canada from England with her mother and two older brothers, joining her father who had come a year prior to begin their new life as homesteaders.
"Oh, what a shock (it was) for my mother," she recalls.
The home was a "shack" -- no windows, and terribly cold in the winter.
They moved a few times, settling briefly in Halkirk, Alberta, where she met her best friend Jean, forging a friendship that lasted their entire lives.
Farm life was tough but always an adventure.
"Every child should have the chance to grow up on a farm," she says.
"My parents didn't have material things to give me, but what they gave me was what I needed to do well: they taught me to work hard, to respect people, to do your best."
She graduated from school at 15, and eventually got a job working in a bank, where she stayed for more than a decade, keeping herself employed all through the Great Depression.
At 29, she married Ed Charter. When he went back to school to take a machinist's course, the pair lived on her income of $85 a month, which covered the basics, including a one room apartment on Robson Street, with no water, a shared bathroom and a hot plate to cook on.
They moved up to Clinton, running B.C.'s oldest "auto court" - a motor hotel - with no water or lights in the cabins, then spent a few years in Penticton, as well as Armstrong, where they ran a bowling alley. They welcomed two children, first Dennis and then Laraine.
They eventually settled in Vernon where Kay found herself working at the Vernon Credit Bureau. Seven years later, having worked her way up, she owned it.
"That was unusual. It was a man's world," she said, recalling that clients coming in were often taken aback to find themselves dealing with a woman. "But I just did what I always did: I treated everyone with respect, I treated everyone equally, men or women."
But that wasn't the last of her accomplishments: she went on to win a seat on Vernon's city council in 1967.
For Kay, there was another life-changing event ahead: in 1970, she was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and went on to live for a time in Florida working with the Florida South Mission.
She's still active in her local LDS church.
Over the years, her long-held opinions about peace, kindness and being nonjudgmental towards others have expressed themselves in a public way: through the letters page of the Burnaby NOW, The Vancouver Sun, The Province and others.
And it was that inclination towards commenting on the various news stories of the day that led to an unlikely and unexpected friendship.
In December 2005, the NOW published a story about then 17-year-old Mangla as she undertook a humanitarian project in high school.
Kay typed up an email to the paper, expressing her appreciation for the young teen's efforts.
That message was sent on, at Kay's permission, to young Mangla, who replied, sparking an electronic pen pal relationship that went on for several months.
They later discovered they lived within walking distance of one another.
From there, the friendship bloomed. Mangla says the pair just clicked, despite the differences between them.
"I said to her once, 'I think we knew each other before this earth and we'll know each other after.' It's like we're just connected," she says.
Kay says that there's no age difference between them, despite the years that separate them.
"It's not like a grandmother and granddaughter relationship. We're just two friends. We talk and have fun," says Kay.
Over the years, the two have taken in special events and theatre shows and, when Mangla moved to Toronto, Kay was the first one to call after she arrived.
"It's like she just knows when someone needs to hear from her. That's not just me, I've heard other people say that to her - you'll be having a bad day or something is going on, and you get home and there's an email from Kay," says Mangla.
Mangla says she's learned many important things from Kay, but chief among them might be to appreciate all that you have.
"Kay is one of those people who counts her blessings. Always," she says.
For Kay, counting her blessings is part of what's helped her achieve such an impressive age in good health. Kay says most of the credit for reaching 100 years goes to plain old healthy living - walking, eating well, avoiding prescription medication.
"And," she says, "make other people feel good."
And she has, according to Mangla. "Kay has left many, many, many legacies - and it's got a ripple effect," she said.
Now in her mid-20s, Mangla has spent the last several years working 10 and 12-hour days in the film industry on a variety of projects, some with the National Film Board, and creating her own award-winning short film that was screened around the world.
But after making short documentary style films of Kay, her own grandmother and others, she's turned her eye to a new venture, helping people create short films to capture the stories and lives of family members.
She decided to launch that project, Tell Your Story Productions (www.tellyourstoryproductions.ca), this week on Kay's birthday.
"It's like good luck to do it now, with all of this going on with Kay's birthday - she's always brought such good things into my life," she says.
And Mangla - along with a wide circle of friends, family and fellow church members - have brought good things to Kay.
"I wouldn't change a thing, I really wouldn't - not a thing," says Kay, with a smile. "I've had a wonderful life. I've been blessed."
To see Mangla's short video of Kay, see http: //vimeo.com/8377877.