In celebration of his 100th birthday, the party came to Ken Smith on Friday, Sept. 4.
The Second World War veteran now lives at Fleetwood Villa, where balloon-festooned vehicles paraded and bagpipes played as the happy birthday boy sat on a bench outside the retirement home and waved to family and friends.
It was a special day for the Manitoba-born Smith, who has lived in Surrey since the late-1960s and worked for the Eaton’s department store chain for nearly 50 years.
Smith was also very involved with minor football in North Surrey and beyond, starting in 1970.
“We had a big party planned for him at the North Surrey football clubhouse at Bear Creek Park, but it had to be cancelled due to the pandemic,” reported Ken’s eldest son, Craig.
Smith and his late wife of 52 years, Mary, had three sons, including Craig, Grant and Laird, who was born with spinabifida and died at an early age.
“Dad has been at Fleetwood Villa for just a couple years,” Craig explained. “He’d been living on his own 12 years before that, in an apartment across from Guildford. He and my mom, before her death, were living in a townhouse since we moved to Surrey, up until that point. He’s a pretty healthy guy, and very social. He’s always been the life of the party and loves having fun.”
At age 100, Surrey’s Ken Smith says he stays healthy by being social and helping others. A Second World War veteran of the Dieppe raid, he now lives at Fleetwood Villa, where balloon-festooned vehicles paraded and bagpipes played last Friday.
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A past-president of the Gizeh Shrine Pipe Band, Smith says he still feels like a kid.
“I just feel young, energetic,” he told the Now-Leader. “I watch the kids run around, I watch my granddaughter, and I just keep saying, ‘I gotta keep up with these kids, you know, I’m getting up there.’ Yeah, it’s nice to be able to feel young and keep active, and in this building here, people expect me to be in bed all the time or wheeled around, but I’m not that at all. I keep active in whatever’s going on, I get involved.”
The youngest of eight children, Kenneth Alexander Smith served in the Canadian Army during the Second World War, as a member of the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada, based in Winnipeg.
In 1942 he fought in the Dieppe raid of the German-occupied French port, among other acts of bravery that earned Smith promotions and awards including the rank of Knight of the French National Order of the Legion of Honour, the highest national order of France.
“War broke out when I was 19,” Smith recalled, “I was there for the disastrous Dieppe raid. I managed to get away, and there weren’t many of us left. Every year with the Legion I lay a wreath in memory of my Dieppe friends who were lost there.”
Twice wounded during the war, he was eventually promoted to Major and second in command with the regiment, Smith continued.
“There were good and bad times then, and I made some good friends but some of them didn’t make it home. Essentially it made a man of me. You realize there are a lot of ifs and ands in life and you can’t contest them all.”
Earlier in life, Smith enjoyed playing hockey and football, and his two sons later got involved in those sports, too.
“Those were great years,” Craig said. “Dad was immersed in the game (of football) his whole life, and he’s won several awards including the Ed Henick outstanding service award, which isn’t given out every year. It’s probably the highest award for anyone in Canadian junior football, very special.”
For work, Smith helped manage the Eaton’s store at Guildford Town Centre for several years before being transferred to the chain’s distribution hub in downtown Vancouver, in the human resources department.
“I love to help people, and I have that level of appreciation for other people,” Smith said. “I think it’s helped keep me healthy all these years.”