Veteran celebrates 106th birthday with a new-fashioned party

Albert Middleton celebrated his 106th birthday on March 11.

Albert Middleton celebrated his 106th birthday on March 11.

Peter Mallett
Staff Writer
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There were smiles, toasts to good health, and plenty of cheer when one of Canada’s oldest veterans celebrated his 106th birthday milestone.

The small gathering of in-person and virtual well-wishers came together in the dining room at Veterans Memorial Lodge on March 11 to honour Albert Middleton.

“I really enjoyed the party and it was so good to see all of the wonderful people who came out to help me celebrate,” said Middleton. “My favourite part was having a good old-fashioned party complete with champagne, cake, and some big band music.”

As a centenarian-plus, he has survived two world wars and lived through two pandemics. When Middleton was born in London, England, in 1915, the Panama Canal had just been built, Sir Robert Borden was Prime Minister of Canada, and a new technology called “radio” was still in its infancy. 

He was sent to Canada as a First World War orphan, arriving in Toronto in 1929 when he was 14. In 1943, at the height of the Second World War, he signed up for the Air Force and served as a Leading Aircraft Man. During his military career, Middleton worked as a mechanic and maintenance worker servicing RCAF and RAF aircraft in London.

“I didn’t want to get drafted, so I thought I would join up and be done with it,” said Middleton.

For most of the war he worked in airplane hangars servicing and repairing warplanes.

“Thankfully, I wasn’t a pilot as that was a really dangerous job; I stayed on the ground during the war,” he said. “Nevertheless, it was hard work keeping all the planes up and running. We really didn’t know too much about what was going on in the war itself, so we just took things day by day.”

After the war, Middleton continued his military service as an Air Force reservist until the early 1950s. In 1952, he received a sum of money from Veterans Affairs Canada as part of the Soldier Settlement and Veterans Land Act. He used the money for a down payment on a 65-acre hobby farm near Brantford, ON, which he purchased in 1956. 

During this time, he also worked in the nearby Massey Ferguson farm equipment factory, and as a security guard. But he still found time to operate his small farm raising cows and pigs.

Much later in life, he returned to England with his second wife and lived there for more than 20 years until her death. At 90 years old, he decided to return to Canada.

After growing accustomed to the warmer climate of England, he chose Victoria for its ice-free winters, said his daughter, Denise Van Raay.

Albert lived in an apartment across from Beacon Hill Park for several years until moving into Veterans Memorial Lodge in 2016.

As he celebrated his birthday, many asked Middleton his secret to longevity.

“The most important secret to living a full life is to exercise and keep moving, whether it’s walking or running, just stay active,” he said.

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