Victoria man celebrates centenary

Alf Truema has seen a lot in his 100 years

  • Aug. 1, 2011 5:00 a.m.
Alfred Trueman

Alfred Trueman

At 100, Alf Trueman still has his teenage spirit. The Victoria man, who hit the century mark on Sunday, isn’t one to sit and lounge. He frequently strolls down Government Street, draws and writes poetry, and entertains fellow residents at the Glenshiel seniors residence with his violin and throaty singing. He learned to play the violin at age 90 “to get all the cute young girls,” said his daughter Elaine Otter. After suffering a heart attack three years ago, he was advised by doctors to cut back on playing. Now he pulls the violin out less often, mostly on birthdays. He winks as he plays a rendition of Unchained Melody, his bow moving quickly across the strings of the instrument. Trueman’s life wasn’t always so whimsical. His first job, at age 14, was as a pony cart driver in a coal mine in England, and at 17, while driving the cart for his father’s green grocery business, he was robbed at gunpoint. He then enlisted in the British Army at age 20, and a few years later was sent to Pakistan. He was also rescued from the beach at Dunkirk, France during the Second World War and fought in one of the battles of El Alamein in Egypt. After the war ended, he travelled to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany. He learned about the sanctity of human life from one of his fellow soldiers, who urged another not to shoot a German guard. “He said, ‘don’t, or you’ll be worse than they are,’” he said. Otter, who emigrated with her father to Canada in 1947, said she’s amazed by his life. “He has seen so much,” she said. Trueman, who has already received his congratulatory letter from Queen Elizabeth, isn’t the only centenarian at Glenshiel. Two other residents are 101 and 100 years old, almost as old as the building itself, which turns 102 this year. He said he’s “shocked” that he’s lived to be 100 but has a few ideas why. “I’m young at heart and think positive,” he said.