What’s the secret to reaching 100 years of age?
If you ask Donald Couch of Lucky Lake, the spry old chap may not exactly have the scientific formula down pat for a longer shelf life, but his advice may just come as good old-fashioned common sense.
“I wouldn’t know that one!” he laughed, when asked how any of us could live so long. “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket; I guess that’d be okay. I’m not really too sure what kind of advice I’d give to reach 100. Eat good, have a good rest, and stay out of drugs!”
Couch celebrated his monumental 100th birthday on Saturday afternoon, February 3 at the community hall in Lucky Lake, where upwards of 300 family and friends came by to wish him well and help him mark the very special occasion. The large come-and-go turnout spoke volumes about the impact and reach that Couch has had with people in his now-century-long life.
Asked how it feels to be Canada’s newest centenarian, Donald said he didn’t really feel much difference on this day as he did the day before, and he was elated to see such a big turnout of people who came to help him celebrate.
“Well, I’d say there isn’t much difference, aside from a little more pain here and there!” laughed Couch. “I can’t believe this, and I didn’t know I had so many friends!”
A veteran of the Second World War who joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in November 1940, Donald’s birthday party also featured a major highlight for the former air engine mechanic, as the 435 Transport and Rescue Squadron out of Winnipeg – the same squadron Couch served with – sent a massive Hercules aircraft to perform a series of fly-bys over Lucky Lake in honour of him. The incredible feat also managed to bring presents from the sky, as the transport plane dropped streamers and even a birthday cake to add to the treats and baked goods on display inside the hall.
“Wasn’t that awesome? I can’t believe they did that either,” said Couch.
On top of the fly-over by the 435 Squadron, members of the local Legion branch from Beechy were on hand to honour and salute Donald, with Vice President of the Saskatchewan Command Keith Andrews presenting him with a Canada 150 medal.
Couch says that today’s climate is doing a fair job of honouring veterans, “as long as we just don’t forget them”, as he says.
During his time in the air force, Donald was stationed in locations such as Brandon in Manitoba, St. Thomas in Ontario, as well as Pat Bay and Port Hardy in British Columbia from 1940 to early 1944. After that, Couch found himself overseas, going over to England by boat and joining the 435 Squadron when it was formed in July. His travels also took him to India, where the Squadron was formed and started training, and some of his more exciting times in the air force included helping fly in supplies for the British 14th Army fighting in Burma on Christmas Eve in 1944, as well as dropping food to the people in Burma after the Japanese had been driven back.
After almost exactly five years to the day that he enlisted, Couch received his discharge on November 9, 1945 in Regina.
Donald says that those days of being overseas with his squadron were among his favourite highlights of his time in the service.
“The best time I ever had in the air force was when I was overseas because there were no parades, I didn’t have to shine any buttons and we were just there to do our job,” he said. “Everybody worked together, and I was able to see a lot of things.”
Now at 100 years of age, Donald most definitely has been able to see a lot of things, and it’s unlikely that he’ll ever forget the day that a community – and a hulking airplane in the chilly Saskatchewan sky – came out to honour him.