Reginald Seed has done a lot in the last 100 years. The native of Newcastle, England, came to Canada in 1948, with his wife, two sons and a contraband kitty.
I hadn't seen him since the summer, when family and friends gathered to celebrate his birthday. On that occasion, the sun shone brilliantly and the wine flowed freely, while a massive cake decorated with outlandish candles lay in waiting and Reginald Seed was asked how he felt.
"When you reach 100, people presume you're daft," he said, "but I'm still learning something every day." Then he leaned over and whispered, "Is that 101-year old lady still available?"
A newly anointed centenarian. Reg loves raising eyebrows.
"I used to ride my motorcycle with a candle in a jam jar at night," he says.
Known to family and friends for his wry wit and offbeat humour, he's now recognized by the prime minister's office (and her Highness and Premier Christy Clark, too).
"Did you see this?" he asks, pointing to a congratulatory certificate signed by Stephen Harper.
"The prime minister wrote to me." With a twinkle in his eye he asks, "Do we need to write him back?" Reassured Mr. Harper would not expect a thank-you note, Reg was not entirely convinced. "What about the Queen? I got one from her too, you know."
Born in Newcastle, England, on Aug. 21, 1912, Reg recalls moments from his early childhood when his father made a push car out of an old coffee tin and saved him from choking on a barley stalk.
"I escaped the house in a long dressing gown, went down the driveway and saw an opening in the fence, and went through."
Reg did what any escapee would: he stopped for a snack. Barley wasn't the best choice.
"Next thing, my father had me on the kitchen table, mouth pried wide open. He used a teaspoon to fish it out."
Reg calls the choking experience as the start of his troublemaking, though he admits he doesn't remember much else from his "early presentation."
When his family lost everything in the Second World War, Reg's father set sail for Canada. Reg followed in 1948.
"I had a wife, two sons, and a Siamese kitten," he said, recalling his voyage over. "In those days, you were not allowed to have Siamese kittens - or any other kind of kitten - on the ship or train or anywhere else."
Crediting the ship's cook for keeping the stowaway safe in his cabin until the Empress of France docked in Halifax, Reg headed west, family and cat in tow, to Sicamous, where he invested in 20 acres of land on Mara Lake. There he put his enterprising ways to work, owning and operating everything from a floating store to a laundromat, and working everywhere from the bush -clearing trees for telephone poles - to building houses, to the Mica Dam project.
"My wife, Daphne, ran the floating store," he said. An old loggers' cabin on a dock that cruised the lake, delivering groceries, Daphne set up shop, just off shore.
"The ducks used to climb out of the lake, onto the raft and waddle into the store. Daphne would feed them and they'd walk right through and out the other door."
Time with Reg is delightful, his stories entertaining and educational.
"I've never had a conversation with a 100-year old," my friend, Vikki, said, but if recent Statistics Canada numbers are any indication, she may someday have the privilege.
According to canada.com, last year's headcount showed there were close to 6,000 Canadians aged 100 or older. That total trumps the 2006 census by 1,200 and is up from the 2001 census by 2,000.
Those number are forecast to keep climbing to more than 78,000 "by the time the 1961 crest of the Baby Boom wave reaches age 100 in 2061."
If hitting that milestone is your mark, you might want to head away from the hills. Saskatchewan has the highest proportion of 100-year olds in Canada (31 per 100,000 residents) and if you're a man, your chances aren't nearly as good: 84 per cent of Canadian centenarians are female.
Andrew Wister, chair of gerontology at Simon Fraser University, credits common factors for keeping people going: regular physical activity, a Mediterranean style diet, including fish, olive oil, vegetables and oh, happy day - red wine; a good social network, good genes, and some good luck. A sense of humour doesn't hurt.
Reg lost his wife in 2001, but he held onto his humour - and mischievous ways. When he failed an eye test to renew his licence, he had a friend steal an eye chart and then memorized it. He passed the next time.
Much less mobile now, Reg gets around with a walker, but he can still spin a yarn to make his audience smile.
Shannon Linden, a Kelowna resident, writes blogs, magazine articles, and grocery lists. Married to an ER physician, her medical update column runs Wednesdays in the Daily Courier.
Visit her at shannonlinden.ca.