Like many centenarians his age, Keith Turner is a living, breathing piece of Canadiana.
Regardless of what his 105-year-old mind can or can’t remember, his eyes have seen more history than many have lived through.
But Turner, who celebrated his birthday last Monday [May 7], claims he has no secret to his longevity.
“I had an aunt that lived to 112; I never met her though,” he said.
Turner was born in Manitoba in 1907 but moved with his family as a five-year-old to Saskatchewan, where he would spend his youth. In 1929, Turner ventured over to B.C., working as Head of Trammers in Anyox.
It was around that time that Turner met his future wife, Elizabeth Thomson of Cedar. She was up in the Okanagan with a friend picking fruit for the summer.
After becoming engaged, the two lovebirds had an impromptu wedding in Washington State while Turner was on business.
“In those days [in Canada] when you got a marriage licence, you had to wait two weeks; that was the law,” Turner explained.
Turner described the love of his life as an independent person. She passed away in 1997.
“Her mind was hers, and it wasn’t easy to change it,” he recalled with a smile, adding, “She used to change mine once in a while.”
After the Second World War broke out, the couple moved down to Vancouver with their first-born son, and Turner held a few jobs, first at a Vancouver shipyard, then in Port Hardy to assist in the building of the airport there.
When the opportunity arose to work at a new shipyard being built in Nanaimo, the young family settled on Holden Corso Road in Cedar, where they raised their three sons.
In 1945, Turner began working as a field engineer for Madill’s, a job he held until his retirement in 1982.
“Whenever they sold a machine, I had to go down and make sure it got started up right, and when they started selling overseas, that’s where I had to go,” he recalled.
It was a job that took Turner on many worldly adventures, from the shores of New Zealand and Australia to the Philippines, Malaysia and the untamed jungles of Borneo, where machete-wielding guides would lead him through the thick brush to deliver and install cable logging equipment and other pieces of machinery.
“I didn’t particularly like the jungle, but I liked that type of exploration; it was interesting to me,” said Turner. “You see the world but, you see the worst parts of it.”
Even after retirement, Turner found himself taking the odd trip on behalf of the company until a permanent replacement was found.
“I had all kinds of guys that thought it was a wonderful job, but they’d take one or two trips and that was all.”
At 105 years old, life is not quite as adventurous for Turner, who moved to Ladysmith two years ago, although he retained and used his driver’s licence up until the age of 102 and decided to turn it in a year ago.
“Old drivers aren’t all the ones that are causing all the trouble, it’s also the young ones,” he said. “I wouldn’t start driving again for that reason.”