A Saanich-based Second World War veteran born before the 1918 influenza pandemic marked his 106th birthday on March 11 – the one-year anniversary of the World Health Organization declaring COVID-19 a worldwide pandemic.
Albert Middleton celebrated his momentous birthday with his fellow residents at the Veterans Memorial Lodge in Saanich on Thursday.
Despite the limitations of the pandemic guidelines, Middleton was well-feted. The festivities included a birthday cake, champagne sent by his daughter in Ontario and big band music.
Staff also wanted to provide special balloons for Middleton but because birthday balloon numbers only go to 100, they had to do some editing to ensure the decorations displayed his impressive age.
The centenarian was born in England in 1915 during the First World War. He and his three siblings spent much of their childhood there until, as a young teen, he was sent to Canada as a “war orphan.”
In 1943, during the Second World War, Middleton joined the air force and served overseas.
After the war, he bought a 65-acre hobby farm in Ontario with money he received from Veterans Affairs Canada. During that time, he also worked in various factories in the province – including Massey Ferguson, a farm equipment manufacturing company.
Despite working full-time, Middleton continued to run his farm and tend livestock. He was known as an enthusiastic and modern farmer – he even bought a tractor back when other farmers were still using horses and plows.
Middleton, who has three children, was widowed twice. After moving to Vancouver Island, he lived on his own in an apartment across from Beacon Hill Park until the age of 101.
As a notably social person, he would take the bus to Mayfair Mall to meet friends and started participating in the veterans’ day program at Broadmead Care’s Veterans Health Centre in 2016. That year, he moved into the Veterans Memorial Lodge.
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