One hundred-and-one-year-old José Goold loves to spend time in the garden at Veterans Memorial Lodge in Saanich.
“It’s lovely fresh air and normally blue sky, and we’ve had many happy hours out here sitting here reading,” José says.
The Second World War veteran joined the army as a driver when she was just 20 years old.
“They had these engines, which we had to maintain ourselves, and of course, they were fully running and they were covered in oil and our hands were filthy,” she says with a laugh.
“And I believe she was a good driver, so you were allowed to drive ambulances, utility vehicles and 1500-weight troop carriers,” adds José’s daughter Johanna Goold.
“It was my first time driving up through London and it was a bit perilous because it was such a huge vehicle and there was so much traffic on the roads, tank carriers and troop carriers,” José recounts.
But José’s most important assignment would come next. She was responsible for driving intercepted Nazi messages to Bletchley Park, where they were decoded.
“I had a soldier with a red cap and a Sten gun and there were no side posts, per se, on the roads, so you had to study a map,” José says.
“It shortened the war by two years, so it was important work,” adds Johanna.
Lost on roads without signposts, José also helped capture a German pilot who’d dropped out of his plane.
“He was lost, too, so that made two of us not knowing where we were going and here’s me asking him for directions,” José laughs.
But when José got to the roadblock just up the road, she was able to tell officers where the German pilot was, and he was taken into custody.
There were also terrifying moments, like when shrapnel from a bomb landed at her feet.
“Big bombs the Germans dropped from their airplanes came down on the road, and you couldn’t tell where they were going to explode,” she says. “It was frightening.”
To help veterans like José, Broadmead Care is fundraising to refurbish three of the nine courtyard gardens at Veterans Memorial Lodge.
“There’s definitely some worn out trellises, seating areas, the railings around, paint is chipped,” Veterans Memorial Lodge director Janet Power explains. “It’s not very attractive, but it’s not a very safe place for our residents to experience outdoors.”
The courtyards are almost 30 years old and they’re definitely showing their age, so the ‘Rooted in Care’ campaign is hoping to raise $172,000.
“A lot of our money that comes from Island Health go towards our care, which is most needed, but the extra moneys we need to enhance our surroundings will come through projects such as this,” says Janet.
José and Joanna spend a lot of time laughing in the garden and looking back on an amazing life.