Not everyone looks so good at 100 – Ken Eve dies at the age of 101

Smiths Falls – “Not everyone looks this good at 100!”

That was the pretty message on a light blue shirt that Ken Eve wore often after turning 100 in 2020.

He died March 22 in Smiths Falls at the age of 101, and is remembered by family and friends for his uncanny ability to be cognitive and alert at such a late stage in life.

Mr. Eve was born and raised in Douglas and after leaving school after the 10th grade he was a farmhand for my father Ed Gallagher. Learning to be a multitasker, he worked on the freeway, at the Campbell and McNab feed mill and delivered mail for Gordon Crogie on the RR 1 route.

He made notes about growing up, notes that told a fascinating life story from back then.

“At 16,[identical twin brother]Robert and I left school to help chop the wood for the winter stove and ride horses,” he documented. “Campbell and McNab had sold their team of horses. The mill and office were heated by a boiler fueled by four-foot logs supplied by some farmers in exchange for cattle fodder.

“The wood was piled up in a so-called lumberyard on the road leading to the mill. When the weather turned cold Robert and I would haul the wood to the mill and load it down a chute to the furnace room and stack the wood.”

Mr Eve’s daughter, Shelley Hitchcock, told the manager he worked 12-hour shifts six days a week at the mill. His rural mail route for Mr. Crogie was 23 hours long and the mode of transport was horse and sleigh. Imagine. This was all before the Eve brothers enlisted in the Canadian Army during World War II.

The Eves enlisted in the Army in 1941 and enlisted for training at Peterborough, where Ken showed recruits how to drive jeeps. The brothers were later sent to Woodstock to learn additional driving and maintenance techniques.

“Then they went to Divert, Nova Scotia, and in September they received notification to go overseas with the Fourth Armored Division,” Mrs. Hitchcock said in an interview. “They went over together and came back together.”

Just last year, the city of Vught in the southern Netherlands paid tribute to Mr Eve for his role in the liberation of Kamp Vught, one of the few concentration camps controlled by the feared Nazis outside of Germany.

“That’s why the Dutch hold Canadians in such high esteem,” said Mrs. Hitchcock. “There were certain things Dad never talked about. I don’t remember him talking about the camp. He would probably choose what to discuss, which was understandable.”

After the liberation of Kamp Vught, the Eve brothers remained abroad to engage in humanitarian and clean-up work before returning to Douglas in January 1946. Ken went back to doing odd jobs on the farm and on the highway in Douglas and Admaston.

It was while working on a farm in Admaston that he met the love of his life, Shirley Beach of Douglas. They married in 1948.

In 1962 Ken, Shirley and their children moved to Peterborough where he was employed at the General Electric plant from 1962-69 – he was a machinist 1962-69. The family then moved back to Douglas where Mr and Mrs Eve shopped House on Main Street across from Ken’s brother Ernie, famous country shoemaker and delivery man for Canada Post.

Mr. Eve used his jack of all trades skills to eventually work for ACME Seeley, Aircraft and Magline, all based in Renfrew. While working at Renfrew, Mr. Eve was a creature of habit on his lunch breaks.

“Every day Ken went to the Swinger[restaurant]for lunch and every day he ate the same thing, a ham sandwich,” Doreen Behm-Bruce recalled amusingly in an interview.

Mr. Eve was secretary and treasurer of the Douglas Fire Department for many years, was met by Ernie and Cecil McIntyre delivering mail, was a member of the United Church and the Douglas Seniors group, took friends to doctor’s appointments, and took jobs from people who did plumbing and look for maintenance work.

He was also an integral part of an impressive book project spearheaded by Douglas’ Dave Lemkay a few years ago. The book was called Echoes and Ripples and chronicled the history of Douglas, Admaston and Bromley.

“Ken had an excellent understanding of what was going on in the village and shared his knowledge freely,” Mr. Lemkay said in a Facebook post following Mr. Eve’s death. “He was accommodating and helpful. I gave Ken the first printed copy to show my gratitude for his help.”

Mr. Lemkay called him an “icon in our wonderful little village of Douglas”.

In 2000, Mr. Eve moved to Smiths Falls to be closer to family members. His daughter Shelley introduced him to the art of email at the age of 92 and he was so happy with this new venture. Mrs. Hitchcock also put him in the mood for online banking.

“Dad was obsessed with email,” said his daughter. “Up until the last three weeks he was always checking email. When I took him to his first COVID shot at 100, they couldn’t put his date of birth online because it didn’t go that high. You had to write it down. They were amazed that he was in such good health at that age.

“Father made wine with his last batch bottled in January 2020. LCBO then made its white wine available.”

Speaking of white wine, what was its recipe for longevity? “Dad would say family first and then maybe good white wine,” said Mrs. Hitchcock.

Until the world shut down due to the pandemic, Mr. Eve was very active, often getting his scooter out of the garage and venturing to the nearby mall to buy lottery tickets and meet friends. Then, with the lockdown, he was holed up at home for two years.

“Ken was a bright, innovative man,” said Mary Humphries of Guelph, a former resident of Douglas. “He sent me long emails. I’ve always been amazed that someone from the Valley would be so tech-savvy over 100.”

According to his daughter, Mr. Eve had been the last surviving war veteran from Douglas.

“It wasn’t that he was ill, but his health was declining and he was becoming increasingly frail,” Mrs. Hitchcock said of her father’s final days. “You knew something was wrong when he became frail. He was coherent to the end but I think he knew it was time.”

Mr. Eve is survived by daughters Shelley (Mike) and Sandra Peterson (Ralph), and sons John (later Judy), Bob (Gwen) and Kevin. He also survived nine grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

He Mr Eve was deceased by his wife Shirley and siblings Robert, Ernie, Clifford, Alfred, Malinda, George, Wesley and Thelma.

A memorial service followed by a burial will be held in Douglas Public Cemetery in May.

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