One of Canada’s oldest Second World War veterans turns 108 today.
Albert Middleton will celebrate the occasion at Veterans Memorial Lodge in Victoria on Saturday, March 11, surrounded by family, friends, a birthday cake, and big band music.
The centenarian says he still feels pretty good and could “still cut a rug.”
Middleton was born in England on March 11, 1915, and was sent to Canada as a teenager by the U.K.’s National Children’s Home and Orphanage, according to daughter Darlene Van Raay.
He worked at an apple orchard in Brantford, Ont., to pay for his passage west. He also spent a bitterly cold winter in Kapuskasing, Ont., where, according to Van Raay, he developed the “boarding house reach” — reaching past other diners to get food.
“At first he was very polite with the meals that they served,” Van Raay said. “And then he found out that he wasn’t going to get served … so he started looking after himself more often.”
Middleton volunteered for the Air Force. He served in Europe from 1943 to 1946, years spent “dodging all the bullets,” he said.
He bought a 26-hectare hobby farm after the war, tending to his land while also working full-time at factories in Ontario. He was married and widowed twice and had three children.
Son Wayne Middleton appreciates all of his father’s hard work.
“We’ve all lived a much better life than he did,” Wayne said. “Maybe at the time we thought we were hard done by, but it was nothing compared to what he’s done.”
Wayne describes his dad as someone who knows a lot, and lived a hard life.
“He didn’t take no guff from anybody, I’ll tell you that right now,” he said. “He’s the type of man that if you were ever in any type of trouble, you wanted him on your side.”
The centenarian’s advice on longevity reflects his strong will.
“People often asked what’s his secret to his long life and I remember him always saying, ‘Don’t give in,'” Van Raay said.
In a statement, Mandy Parker of Broadmead Care, which operates Veterans Memorial Lodge, described Middleton as “an unfailingly cheerful and kind-hearted person.”
“They say when he walks up and down the hall, you know he’s coming because he’s singing and laughing,” Van Raay said.