Nanaimo veteran who survived 1918 flu pandemic celebrates 102nd birthday on Remembrance Day

Nanaimo veteran who survived 1918 flu pandemic celebrates 102nd birthday on Remembrance Day
WatchIn Nanaimo, people were told to stay away from Remembrance Day services to keep vulnerable veterans safe, but as Skye Ryan reports, the oldest veteran in attendance still managed to enjoy some heartfelt memories during the ceremony. 


As bagpipes belted out solemn songs during a Remembrance Day ceremony in Nanaimo, Victor Osborne was soaking up every note, which knew from memory.

Remembrance Day also happens to be the Second World War veteran’s birthday. He turned 102.

“I find it amazing,” Osborne told CHEK. “I’ve reached this far in life.”

Born on Nov. 11, 1918, Osborne has lived through some of the most significant events in history, from the Great Depression to the Second World War.

His first few months were in a world that was not only dealing with the aftermath of the Great War but was grappling with the influenza pandemic, which arrived in Canada that same year as the troops came home from overseas.

“I survived the last pandemic,” said Osborne.

The Spanish flu, as it is commonly called, would go on to claim 50,000 Canadian lives by the time that Osborne was just two years old.

“You’re going to survive this one,” said Osborne’s daughter Suzanne King.

“Yes, definitely survive this one too,” Osborne said.

King says this year’s Remembrance Day amid the coronavirus pandemic is the first one that resembles the mood her dad long described of wartimes.

“COVID-19 has made a lot of people understand what it’s like to live in fear,” said King.

Yet, Osborne welcomed the small crowd that attended in Nanaimo.

“No people is so quiet,” said Osborne. “So quiet.”

During this year’s ceremony, Diana Freethy and her young daughter brought a homemade wreath to the cenotaph and thanked Osborne for his services.

“This gentleman is the reason we’re here, to honour the people that served us and allowed us to be in the free country that we’re in,” Freethy said.

Skye RyanSkye Ryan

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