Vital People: 104-year-old WWII Veteran John Hillman continues to inspire

Vital People: 104-year-old WWII Veteran John Hillman continues to inspire

One-hundred-and-four-year-old John Hillman has had an extraordinary life.

“I can’t say anything at all about longevity,” John jokes. “I’ve just been lucky. I’m just alive. I’m still alive and enjoying it.”

The Second World War veteran was just 17 years old when he joined Britain’s Royal Air Force and served in wartime campaigns in France, North Africa, Italy, and Burma.

“I had an angel on each shoulder,” John says. “They looked after me. I went through the war without any damage.”

But after the war was a different story.

“I had hemorrhages, they reckon from my service in Burma, and these hemorrhages led to surgery and that left me, they kicked me out, and said I was no good to them anymore,” he explains.

The Carlton House of Oak Bay resident has also survived cancer twice, and jokes that he should be dead. But John’s not done making a difference.

In 2020, while the world was in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic, John made national headlines by doing 101 laps — in honour of his 101st birthday — around the Carlton House courtyard to raise money for Save the Children.

“John is somebody who has seen war at a very young age and that’s given him a unique perspective on how hardship affects young people,” says Jacqueline Prewett of Carlton House.

That walk far exceeded his $101,000 goal., so he did it again the next year.

Sadly, during his 102nd birthday fundraising walk, John’s wife of more than 70 years passed away.

But John kept going, pushing through the pain to help make a difference.

“I think he shows that it doesn’t matter how old you are, as long as you’re around, and you’re able to do something to help people, you should and I think that’s the John Hillman lesson that he’s teaching people by doing,” Jacqueline explains.

Last year, horrified by the war in Ukraine and all the children impacted, John did 103 laps for his 103rd birthday for a total of more than $330,000 to date.

“When you come to think of the number of children, particularly the children from Ukraine to Poland, millions, and $330,000 is going nowhere.”

And that’s why this centenarian is at it again, doing 10 laps a day starting May 1st to raise at least $104,000 for Save the Children’s emergency fund.

“If I could raise a million, I would be well satisfied,” John says with a big grin. “And I would think the four years I have done would be well worth the effort, and God bless all the people who contributed.”

To donate to John’s 104th birthday fundraiser, click on this link.

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