100 yr old

Penticton resident Henry Kriwokon turned 100 on Jan. 26. Here, he holds a photo of himself when he was 23.

Age isn’t a number, it’s how you feel – and that’s some good advice coming from a 100-year-old.

Penticton resident Henry Kriwokon turns 100 tomorrow, and will be hosting family from across the province for a big celebration.

And he has a big family: Kriwokon said he has 123 nieces and nephews.

“I could count them all, but it would take a while,” he said with a laugh.

Kriwokon comes from a family of eight, growing up in rural Saskatchewan near Cypress Hills after his parents immigrated to Canada from the Ukraine in 1913.

They were gifted a plot of land, said Kriwokon, but it was completely bare: his parents were responsible for building a sod home since there was no available lumber, and to work the land into a farm.

Now, the homestead is owned by a third generation member of the Kriwokon family.

“When I was six, seven, eight years old, there were no roads, period. No cars, no airplanes, I walked to school three to five kilometres. We didn’t know any difference,” he recalled of the early 1920s and ’30s.

They worked to put food on the table and survive, he said.

In 1936, Kriwokon moved to Vancouver for work but found there was no work in British Columbia, either.

“B.C. was worse than Saskatchewan,” he recalled.

It wasn’t until he walked into an armoury looking for a job that they told him, “Come back next Wednesday.”

He did, and found himself enrolled in the army.

The iconic photo entitled "Wait For Me, Daddy" which shows Canadian soldiers marching through the streets of New Westminster to a ship waiting to take them away has personal meaning to Kriwokon: he's in the photo. 

And he even knows the little boy who was snapped running to take his father's hand by photographer Claude Detloff from The Province newspaper.

"That particular day, I didn't know where we were going," Kriwokon recalled.

The ship took them to Nanaimo, before Kriwokon was sent to Ontario, stopping in Hamilton before being shipped to Borden.

“I was stationed in a couple places, but I was stationed in Borden, and when I got over to England, they stationed me in Borden, England,” he chuckled.

Kriwokon considers himself lucky he never saw the frontlines of battle, but was instead working in an armoury about an hour outside London repairing rifles and getting weapons ready for the troops.

But that didn’t mean he never saw the war: to this day, Kriwokon still remembers the sound of a fleet of German planes flying overhead, and the devastation from bombs that were dropped.

“You know when there’s an airplane flying over here, you hear the two propellers? How do you think 50 planes … sounded?”

And when he returned from war, Kriwokon lived in Hope, and spent some time on Vancouver Island, which he recalled not enjoying very much. He also spent some time in Arizona, but finally settled in Penticton on Jan. 13, 1999 – a date he recalls with no hesitation.

His advice to the younger generation?

“Just be careful. Don’t drink too much. Eat good food, and keep out of trouble.

“The number doesn’t mean anything, it’s how you feel.”