Agassiz man turns a century old

Howard Korstad celebrates his 100th birthday with friends and family.

Howard Korstad celebrates his 100th birthday with friends and family.

Celebrating 100 years of life, and it’s safe to say Howard Korstad is still with it.

In fact, it was only last year when he stopped driving, and kept busy gardening until he was 98.

And if that’s not enough to be worth bragging about, the centenarian can now also showcase an album filled with certificates from Queen Elizabeth the Second, the Governor General, Canuck’s coach Trevor Linden and others congratulating him on his milestone.

Howard and his wife Betty, who lived in the District of Kent for 70 year, recently moved to Langley, but that didn’t stop the duo from making their way back to their long-time hometown to celebrate with 130 friends and family at the Friendship House.

“I want to thank everyone for coming to celebrate,” Howard said, who went home with a pack of beer from his poker friends, and a gift bag filled with birthday cards.

Last weekend, sons Richard and Robert and their wives, two grand-daughters, and four great-grandkids watched Kerstad blow out his candles, commemorating a century of happiness, pride and hard work.

The 100-year-old has a lot to be proud of, including a love-filled marriage of 70 years, three years of service for the Royal Canadian Air Force and a 30 year career with Canfor.

Howard was born in 1916 on his parent’s homestead in Alberta.

As a brother to nine other siblings, Howard said he was delivered by a mid-wife. When the mid-wife came by the house and smoked from her pipe, he said, everyone in the house “knew there was a baby coming, and another mouth to feed.”

The centenarian attended a one-room school until 1929 when he graduated from Grade 8 at the age of 13, and immediately went to work on the farm.

Growing up in the hungry ‘30s, he added, he made 50 cents a day; back when overall’s cost a dollar.

When he turned 17, Howard began an automotive apprenticeship, until his brother invited him to work at a logging camp on Vedder Mountain.

There, he worked as a pumpman with a steam dock on a Catherwood Logging railway, then as a “speeder” transporting men to different jobs along the railroad on the mountain and later in Harrison Mills.

Work on the railroad was unpredictable and heavily dependant on ideal weather patterns, so when “the war was getting red hot,” Howard explained, he joined the Canadian Air Force for 3-and-a-half-years, primarily stationed in Patricia Bay in Sidney, B.C., working as an engine mechanic.

During a visit in 1944 to North Vancouver to see a friend working in the shipyard, Howard never expected to meet the love of his life.

Members of the armed forces often visited the Olympic Club’s cafe, he recalled, including Betty who worked in a wartime housing facility nearby.

A friend of Betty’s set the two up on a date, Howard said, and two years later, at 29 years old, Howard married 21-year-old Betty, who’s been keeping him young ever since.

During the pair’s residence in Harrison Mills – and later Mount Woodside and then Agassiz – they both watched the District of Kent overcome the great flood of ‘48, and maintain it’s community values despite population growth.

While raising their two sons, Howard worked for Canfor, and Betty worked as a stenographer at Kent Elementary school.

Howard retired in 1981, with Betty retiring shortly after, and the two moved to Agassiz in 2003.

Now that the two moved away, they miss their friends the most, Betty said.

“We have a great group of friends,” she added.

Howard said he’d meet with his group of friends to play poker every Tuesday at the Friendship House, and he and Betty floor-curled until last year.

Now, the two enjoy retirement not focusing on much more than their day to day activities, their growing family and each other.

When asked for any advice a centenarian like himself could share with others, Howard’s methodologies of life were revealed to be quite laid back.

“There’s no secret to living this long,” he said. “Eat what you want, drink what you like and when the number is pulled from the wall you are done.”