We’re constantly being told that “80 is the new 60.” The Okanagan Valley is blessed with some incredible seniors. In recognition of this, we’re dedicating today’s Okanagan Top 10 to some incredible individuals, doing incredible things, beyond the age of 80.
“Amigo” has dedicated his life to making others happy. In Mexico, he was an elementary school teacher and mariachi musician, playing at New York’s World Fair and the White House. He came to Canada in the 1970s and settled in Penticton where he performed regularly in schools and co-founded Penticton’s Amigos of Mexico with former mayor Mike Pearce.
Now 80, he still performs shows (he’s busy every May with Cinco de Mayo celebrations) and at Christmas he and his wife, Olive, visit many seniors’ homes, hospitals and City Hall singing “Feliz Navidad.” Every Canada Day he shares his message of
“I love Canada” with the community.
For John Bohn, volunteering and keeping active in the community is an integral part of his daily life.
Bohn, 85, joined the Kelowna Parkinson Senior Society 16 years ago, and has been serving on the executive board in various positions for the past six years.
Currently, he is serving as the president.
“When I retired, I went down there and became a member of the place to join some of the functions they had there such as crib and pool . . . then I got involved in volunteering for different things,” he said.
Bohn said he plans to stay active and involved with the society.
“It’s mainly the camaraderie of the people,” he said, on the reason he keeps doing it. “I’m looking forward to the next year being involved. I’ll carry on as long as I can.”
He begins his day at 5 a.m. by holding court at Tim Hortons. After reading The Penticton Herald and visiting with other working seniors, he shuttles his great-grandchildren around... and then he goes to work. This 87-year-old homebuilder/developer still builds houses with his sons and manages properties.
A German immigrant and longtime resident of Penticton, Deuschle has designed several subdivisions including Pineview Plateau, where he and his wife live. His previous business dealings included co-owning Pilgrim House, which is now the Ramada.
He’s generous with causes such as Habitat for Humanity and the Be An Angel campaign.
With old age comes a sense of humour.
On the price of hotel rooms, he once quipped, “If I pay more than $100 a night, I can’t sleep.”
Betty Gold marked her 95th birthday on Aug. 13 by diving into the pool at the Johnson-Bentley Memorial Aquatic Centre in West Kelowna.
It was a clean entry and she surfaced seconds later, smiling and laughing to the delight of friends and family gathered around the pool deck.
“I dive from the board every year on my birthday,” Gold said in an interview. “And in-between a lot, too, but then only from the edge of the pool.”
Gold has taken aqua-fit classes regularly at the pool since it opened 30 years ago. She credits that devotion to fitness as keeping her healthy and happy.
“I really believe in exercise,” she says. “I don’t want to sit in no chair and just rock.”
Gold joined the Westside Seniors Centre in 1976 when she was 53 years old. She’s had a hand in running and participating with every activity that takes place there, except billiards, of which she is no fan.
Gold played baseball until she was 75. “That’s when I hung up my glove,” she said. “It was getting just a little too much to run around the bases.”
Like any nonagenarian, Gold is often asked the secret to her longevity and sprightliness. “Easy. Being close to your family and friends.”
Doreen Houde was an integral part of developing the Westbank Seniors Centre into the active community it is today.
“At the beginning, things were pretty slow there, but then more people started coming and got interested, and we had a couple of presidents that were really good at keeping things interesting and thinking of new things to do,” Houde said.
Houde, 89, served as the centre president for several years, and was involved in organizing many activities, such as carpet bowling, choir and dances.
“I liked everything,” she said. “My husband said I didn’t know how to say no.”
Houde stepped back from her work at the seniors centre two years ago, but she still remains active in the community.
Helen Little’s association with the Fraternal Order of Eagles ladies’ auxiliary dates back to 1955 in Trail. She worked at the Sears there in the kitchen and boutique shop and was active with the Trail Eagles. When she and her
husband retired to Penticton, 27 years ago, she was instrumental in starting the LA at the Eagles. She is the past Pacific Northwest Region president and a past B.C. president. Today she holds the title of “Auxiliary Mother” where she mentors younger members and helps out wherever she can.
That includes raising money for dozens of community charities through dinners, pie sales, and other fundraising. She helps children with diabetes go to summer camp. When she celebrated her 90th birthday this year, it was (appropriately enough) at the Eagles.
In 2016, she was the oldest volunteer at the B.C. Winter Games, helping with medals. She’s also a member of the Catholic Women’s League at St. Anne’s Church and, until only a few years ago, was active with the Penticton Adventurers Club and an avid golfer.
Ivan McLelland is still sharp as a tack at age 87, even more impressive considering he led the Penticton Vees to a world hockey championship in 1955 — an era in which netminders did not yet wear protective face or head gear.
He is one of only three players remaining from the iconic team that beat the vaunted Russian machine to win the title in Germany. McLelland remains extremely active in the community that he has now called home for some 67 years.
Soft-spoken and humble despite his celebrity status, McLelland is a tireless volunteer at Village By the Station. He rarely turns down public speaking requests and does his part — and then some — to keep the legacy of the 1955 Vees alive.
A native of South Porcupine, Ont., McLelland’s autobiography “From Gold Mine to Gold Medal … and Beyond” is a must-read for anyone, let alone diehard hockey fans.
McLelland was inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame and Museum in 2005.
Steve Skuba isn’t an impressively active octogenarian — he’s an unbelievably active and engaged nonagenarian.
Skuba, a 93-year-old West Kelowna resident, is the go-to guy for everything related to floor curling at the local seniors’ centre. He plays every week, teaches the sport, takes care of the equipment and organizes the schedule.
A former teacher and school superintendent in Northern Alberta, Skuba and Helen, his wife of 70 years, moved to the Okanagan in 1995. He still drives, and regularly collects items to be donated to the Westbank United Church’s thrift shop.
Skuba enjoys working out at the gym at the Heritage seniors residence where he and Helen live. He has never smoked or drank much coffee but enjoys a glass of red wine with his dinner, and can read without glasses. (‘Sisters’, by Danielle Steele, is his current page-turner.)
Never too big on computers, Skuba still writes letters to friends and former colleagues. He is one of just four people to have received an Honorary Life Membership to the Westside Senior Citizens Association.
Big White was just a few runs served by a single T-bar lift with a little day lodge when Cliff Serwa co-founded the ski resort in 1963.
The resort grew exponentially and changed hands in the 1980s. Serwa went on to a career in politics as one of the Kelowna area’s Social Credit MLAs from 1986-96.
He also served a stint as provincial minister of environment.
Skiing is still in the genes.
Serwa’s famous granddaughter, Kelsey Serwa, won the ski cross Olympic gold medal earlier this year at the Pyeongchang Games in South Korea.
The pair showed their multi-sport side earlier this summer when, together, they cycled the 60 kilometres uphill from East Kelowna to Big White as part of the L’Alpede Grand Blanc bike ride.
When we catch up with Dorothy Zoellner, 89, and ask her how she is, she answers with the old-fashioned idiom “fair to middlin’.”
Zoellner is still a director with the Okanagan Historical Society, and for years was the editor of the organization’s annual report.
For nearly two decades her informative and entertaining weekly dispatches on local history ran on Mondays in this newspaper’s sister publication, The Kelowna Daily Courier.
She jokes she’s one of the few people born in Kelowna in 1929 to still be alive and living here today.
In fact, the only time she didn’t live in Kelowna was when she went to university in Vancouver. She then came back to her hometown and taught history at Kelowna Secondary School for decades.
She still lives in the lakefront home on Bluebird Road that’s been in her family since 1943.
Okanagan Top 10 is a weekly feature. Choices are made by the editorial staff. To comment on this, or any other story, email: email@example.com.