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103-year-old Alberta resident prays, has a drink a day

Bill Evans has had quite a life; repairing bombers as an electrician in the Second World War and being a Western Canada sales manager for a rubber sales company

He’s seen a lot of changes in his 103 years, but Bill Evans’ favourite two pieces of technology are audio books and the Sunshine Bus that gets him to the library frequently to take them out.

The bus provides wheelchair-accessible transportation within Olds for seniors over the age of 50 and for people who have mobility issues.

Evans, now a resident of the Mount View Lodge in Olds, was the oldest of the family's five boys born in Kerrobert, Saskatchewan in 1921 and raised in nearby Luseland.

He turned 103 on March 22. His birthday was one of about eight celebrated at Mount View Lodge on March 20.

When Evans graduated from high school, he joined the air force.

He eventually became an aircraft electrician and was transferred to England to maintain Lancaster bombers during the Second World War.

During an interview with the Albertan and Apryl Webb, a town community facilitator, Evans played down his role in the war, noting he wasn’t a member of the aircrew itself.

“Aircrew, they were taking a chance every day,” he said.

Evans remembered an incident involving a bomber that had to be repaired due to engine problems.

“Every night, one guy would come out with a bucket of tea, so we had good tea every night. That wasn’t too bad,” he said.

But a later incident changed his mind about the quality of that drink.

“One day there on the parade ground I couldn’t do anything, they were working on the engine. I thought I’d go to the hangar and have a little rest, so I went into the hangar and here’s a guy washing his feet in our bucket,” he said.

One day while Evans was in London, a bombing raid occurred and a policeman took him down into the London subway, known as the underground.

He couldn’t believe how many people were down there.

“As far as I could see (were) their feet facing the rails,” he said.” That was quite a sight.”

After the war, Evans became a salesman, selling all kinds of rubber products – even conveyor belts. 

He remained in sales for 40 years, rising all the way to Western Canada sales manager.

He was president of the Canadian Associated Travellers from 1969 to 1971.

Evans was asked why he liked being a salesman.

“Well, it’s freedom,” he said. “You’re kind of your own boss. It’s up to you who you’re going to call and what you’re going to do. And (it’s) meeting people.”
He and his wife Catherine (Bunty) Evans had two daughters.

“I’ve got five grandchildren and about seven or eight great-grandchildren,” Evans said.

“I’ve got lots of family. I’m pleased. It’s important to have family when you’re growing older. It’s a big plus, having family.”

Evans said one of the smartest moves he made was to buy a cottage in B.C. when the wife of a client offered to sell it.

He said he and his family had many enjoyable times there.

Initially when he retired, Evans and Bunty planned to buy a condo in Calgary but one daughter, living near Caroline, offered to provide them with a piece of her acreage on which to build a home.

Evans' wife passed away about 10 years ago.

He moved into Mount View Lodge about eight years ago.

“It’s a good move. I’m glad I’m here,” he said. “Everybody here likes the place.”

Evans was asked what he considers to be the biggest changes he’s seen over his lifetime.

He named cellphones.

“You don’t need any wires,” he said. “I don’t have a cellphone now, smartphone. My eyesight’s too bad. But I had one at one time.”

Evans pointed out that vehicles have changed a lot over the decades.

“Vehicles can go a lot further and all of that,” he said. "Faster. A big change from the Model T days,” he added with a laugh.

Evans was asked what the secret is for living as long as he has. 

One key, he said is, “you live from day to day.”

But he said the biggest key is prayer.

“We have church service here. I go every Sunday to church,” he said.

“I pray every day.

“When I get up, I thank God for another day in my life, another day I can live, walk, see, hear and move around. I’ve always said prayers. I ask for continued love and care.”

Evans said he made up his own prayer and says grace when he attends a luncheon in Calgary once a month.

His advice to young people is to pray frequently as well.

“You don’t have to overdo it. But saying a prayer in the morning and a prayer in the evening is not too tough,” he said.

Evans usually goes on the Sunshine bus once a week for errands; primarily taking out audio books, because, due to eyesight problems, he can no longer read. He likes westerns.

Sometimes he goes shopping as well.

“I like the Sunshine Bus and I like all the drivers. I like the guy answering phones,” he said.

“They make sure they grab you by the arm. They know I’m not too steady. And if we’re going to the store, they walk in with me to see if they can help me.

“They’re all good, and they’re all good friends.”

As the visit ended, Evans plopped into his recliner, flipped up the foot rest, and asked his visitors to stay for a drink.

He offered rye and coke.

His visitors politely declined, noting they were still on the job.

Then he suggested rye and water.

“It’s the rye that’s the problem,” Webb said with a laugh.

Evans was asked if he has an alcoholic drink every day.

“One (at) 4 o’clock, yeah,” he replied.

“That’s awesome,” Webb said with a laugh. It’s working for you.”

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