A birthday to remember for Ian Wilson
Sean Chase/Daily Observer Ian Wilson, with his best friend, "Maggie," present some of the food collected at his recent 92nd birthday to Petawawa Pantry president Laurie Alton. The retired armoured soldier and farmer asked friends to bring food instead of presents to the milestone party held on Feb. 10.
PETAWAWA – To celebrate his 92nd birthday, Ian Wilson decided he didn't want gifts but a chance to once more serve his community.
So the retired soldier and farmer gathered his friends and neighbours for a special birthday party at his Herman Street home asking only for donations for the Petawawa Pantry food bank. It was an idea he discussed with his daughter, Lisa, who was thrilled with her father's desire to give back to the community.
“We really like to support Petawawa,” said Lisa.
In the end, they collected a sizable amount of groceries and a monetary donation to hand over to the fledgling food bank that opened last year. For Ian, he was overwhelmed by the support and outpouring of well wishes.
“It was quite something and a nice surprise,” he said looking at the collection of birthday cards now on display in his living room. “We sat around here and had a good time.”
Ian was born on Feb. 7, 1926 in Bournemouth, a small seaside village and resort on the southern coast of England. In 1957, he and his wife, Marjorie, and their two daughters, sailed across the Atlantic for Canada. Docking at Halifax, the family took the train to Calgary where Ian took over a poultry farm. He worked hard raising some 3,000 chickens.
The following year, Ian joined the Canadian Army and went to Camp Borden for six months of basic training at the Armoured School. Although he was 32 years old at the time, Ian embraced the physical and mental challenges of 'boot camp' and ended up becoming almost a father figure to his fellow comrades.
“They use to call me 'mother,'” joked Ian. “I always worked hard.”
From there he was posted to Camp Petawawa as a member of the 8th Canadian Hussars. He served on a year-long United Nations peacekeeping tour to Egypt from 1963 to 1964. He retired from the Canadian Forces in 1970. The family settled in Petawawa moving into his current home in 1983. Marjorie passed away three years.
Receiving this donation was special for Petawawa Pantry president Laurie Alton who is one of Ian's neighbours. Located at 3468B Petawawa Blvd., the non-profit organization collects, stores and distributes food to people in need in the Petawawa area. “It is very humbling to have someone in our community of Mr. Wilson's age who still has that authentic heart to give back to the community,” said Alton. “We need to learn from that and we are pretty honoured by that.”
As for Ian, he is enjoying taking in the Winter Olympics and waiting for better weather so he can get out and continue leading his active lifestyle. He said the secret to his longevity has been to remain busy and robust.
“My daughter says I am going to live to 100 but that's another story,” he remarked noting that lately he is reluctantly following doctor's orders to slow down. “I can't slow down and this is what I have to do now. I am learning the hard way that I have to slow down.”