After surviving a plane crash, taking up oil painting is a breeze for Lou Larson – even at 91 years old.
The Penticton senior started painting two years ago and will host a showing of his art this Sunday at Athens Creek Lodge on Warren Avenue. The exhibition of more than 20 paintings will be held from 2-4 p.m. in the upstairs lounge of the seniors residence.
Larson grew up in rural Alberta and overcame a number of obstacles, including a battle with polio, while eventually becoming an engineer and developing highways for the Alberta government.
Perhaps his biggest battle followed a plane crash in the late 1960s.
Larson said he and his wife, Fern were passengers in a single-engine Cessna 185 en route from Edmonton to Wabasca, northeast of Slave Lake, Alta. He was flying into the tiny community to help develop an airstrip for forestry water bombers.
The plane, piloted by the contractor building the airstrip, suddenly lost part of its propeller.
“There was so much vibration, he had to shut the motor off,” Larson recalled. “We were at 5,000 feet and then we had to glide in.”
The plane ended up crash-landing in a large field, dotted with hay bales.
“There were bales of hay all over the bloody field,” he said. “There was no runway to land on.”
Although the plane’s motor twisted sideways upon impact, miraculously all four people on board survived.
The pilot was bleeding badly but managed to walk with his wife towards a nearby road where a young couple had parked for an amorous rendezvous – unaware of the plane crash nearby since the engine had been shut down.
They drove to the town of Athabaska, about 30 kilometres away, to get help. With no ambulance available, the rescue team arrived in the only other suitable vehicle at hand.
“Humphrey’s Funeral Parlour – they put me in a hearse!” Larson recalled with a laugh.
Larson ended up with a broken back and ankle, and spent three months in an Edmonton hospital.
Meanwhile, Larson said he takes great delight in his new painting hobby, taken up after his wife passed away three years ago.
Even when you’re in your 90s, he said, it’s never too late to start something new.
“You’re never too old to try something, that’s my philosophy,” he said. “I like to be busy and this art, it keeps me out of trouble.”