Keith Turner celebrates 107th birthday

Keith Turner is believed to be the oldest man on Vancouver Island.

  • May. 12, 2014 10:00 a.m.

Keith Turner, who is believed to be the oldest man on Vancouver Island, was at the centre of a birthday party last Wednesday (May 7) at La Rosa Gardens, as he celebrated his 107th birthday.

A bumper crowd packed into the dining room at La Rosa, including a live brass band, Ladysmith Mayor Rob Hutchins and councillors Duck Paterson, Steve Arnett, Bill Drysdale and Glenda Patterson.

Asked how he approaches each and every day these days, Turner said, “It depends what happens the night before.”

Turner also said he does not have a secret to living so long, stating it’s important just to “behave yourself and kill time.”

Cake was served to everyone in attendance, with Turner cutting and eating the first piece alongside five-year-old great-grandson, Jakoby.

Granddaughter Donna Giannakos, Jakoby’s mother, said that her grandfather’s key to living so long has been his stubbornness and positive attitude.

“Grandpa has always been very stubborn and active,” she said. “On his 100th birthday, he traveled to Egypt where he fell in the dining room and broke his neck. But that didn’t faze him because he’s so stubborn. He never gives up, he never complains and is just so positive about everything in life. He’s always happy and is grateful for everything.”

Mayor Hutchins gave a speech on Turner’s life, and Patterson presented the birthday boy with a selection of Purdy’s chocolates on behalf of the Town of Ladysmith.

“It’s a remarkable milestone that we celebrate here today,” said Hutchins. “Although Stats Canada won’t give out these details due to privacy issues, we believe the oldest person living in Canada is a woman in Langford, B.C., who is 113, but she was born in Iowa, United States. The oldest person living in the country who was born in Canada is a Victoria woman at 110. The oldest man born in Canada is Gordon Mackee, who is just a little bit older than Keith at 107, and he lives in Vancouver.”

Hutchins went on to confirm that the Victoria woman, Mackee and Turner were remarkably all born in a similar territory of southern Manitoba.

Although born in Manitoba, Turner moved to Saskatchewan at the age of five and then to B.C. to work in 1929 in Anyox, north of Prince Rupert.

“After that, he moved to Hedley, B.C., and started building an aerial tramway used for transportation down the mountains,” said Hutchins. “It was around that time he met his wife, Betty Thomson, and the two married in Washington State due to the marriage licence law in Canada.”

The marriage licence back in those days meant couples would have to wait two weeks to say “I do.”

“In 1944, the two moved to Cedar, where they lived for many years,” said Hutchins. “Keith began working for Madill’s mills where at one point, he was asked to fire all the women. He refused to do it, saying they were the best workers and never complained. He then went on to travel the world for his job, all over North and South America and Asia promoting equipment.

“At the age of 102, Keith decided to drive to La Rosa in Ladysmith and he voluntarily handed in his driver’s licence at 103.

“He told me he smoked like a train ‘till he was 60 and also hated broccoli and Brussels sprouts, so the secret isn’t that,” Hutchins said, smiling.

The Town decided the Purdy’s gift would be suitable as the chocolate company is also celebrating its 107th anniversary.

“We hope there’s enough there to keep you going ‘till you’re 108 Keith,” the mayor said in conclusion.