Sask. man celebrating 105th birthday with raisin pie and a waltz

·2 min read
Harold Chapman celebrates his 105th birthday Wednesday. He plans to eat raisin pie and dance a waltz or two during a celebration at Saskatoon's Sherbrooke Community Centre. (Jason Warick/CBC - image credit)
Harold Chapman celebrates his 105th birthday Wednesday. He plans to eat raisin pie and dance a waltz or two during a celebration at Saskatoon's Sherbrooke Community Centre. (Jason Warick/CBC - image credit)

Harold Chapman is pushing his walker through Saskatoon's Sherbrooke Community Centre when a worker asks if he's excited about his upcoming 105th birthday party.

Chapman stops and turns. He slowly raises his eyebrows and flashes a wide smile.

"Oh, I don't know about any party," he says.

"Well, then, just pretend to be surprised!" replies the worker.

That party, scheduled for Wednesday afternoon, will include desserts and music. A friend, Don Kossick, is bringing his band to play for Chapman and the other residents.

Chapman won't just be listening to the music. He intends to dance at least one waltz, maybe two, as he often does during social events at the care home.

Jason Warick/CBC
Jason Warick/CBC

"He is an amazing guy. He's just got such a positive attitude toward life. He just is up for everything," his daughter, Gail Chapman-Malone, said from her home in Ontario. She'd hoped to come to Saskatoon to celebrate the milestone, but a recent case of COVID in her household caused her to cancel.

Watch Harlod Chapman dancing just days before his 105th birthday:

In an interview Tuesday afternoon at Sherbrooke, Chapman and his stepson, Scott Bell, shared stories and memories that span back to April 27, 1917 in his birthplace of Floral, Saskatchewan.

Chapman-Malone and Bell agree that one key factor has helped Chapman live such a long, joyous, healthy life: his dedication to public service.

"It's mind-blowing. He's had such an important role in the community. And I think that's why he's lived so long. His whole life has been helping others," Chapman-Malone said.

submitted by Megan Malone
submitted by Megan Malone

Chapman was a pioneer in Saskatchewan's co-operative movement. After serving in the Canadian army, he was appointed by then-premier Tommy Douglas to establish rural co-operatives. He helped thousands of farmers, trappers and fishers band together to increase their marketing and purchasing power.

Chapman is also the founder of the University of Saskatchewan's Canadian Centre for the Study of Cooperatives.

Chapman said lasting educational influence is his greatest professional accomplishment.

"I think one of the times that I felt the proudest," Chapman said, pausing for several seconds, "was when I was a speaker at that first graduating class."

Retirement didn't stop him from serving others. He and his deceased partner, Joan Bell, delivered Meals on Wheels to other, often younger, seniors into their 90s.

Submitted by Gail Chapman-Malone
Submitted by Gail Chapman-Malone

For all of this work, Chapman was awarded the Order of Canada in 2017, at age 99.

"Harold is an inspiration in every meaning of the word," said Scott Bell who, along with MacDonald, visits Chapman daily.

"He has empowered people in the community to find solutions for themselves."

After the interview, Chapman is slowly pushing his walker back to his room when the worker tells him they'll be serving one of his favourites — raisin pie — at the party Wednesday.

"Oh, that's good," Chapman says. "I hope they make enough for everyone."

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