Wednesday, 19 March 2014 13:52

It’s never too late to pursue your goals

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Better late than never. In the case of John Babcock, this adage certainly holds true. Due to the death of a loved-one, a world war as well as the demands of work and family, John had to wait 75 years to achieve one of his goals.

When I interviewed John for the first time, he was 107 and Canada’s last surviving World War One veteran. Despite his advanced age, he still had the strong, deep voice of a frank and honest man.
Born July 23, 1900 in Holleford, Ont., John was only 14 when his father died in a logging accident. Following the tragedy, his mother found work as a maid in Saskatchewan, but his ten brothers and sisters were scattered among relatives. John had to quit school to work.
At 15, John fibbed about his age and joined the army. The military offered stability and a relatively good salary, but Babcock also enlisted out of a sense of duty, “Hell, it was the thing to do,” he said in a matter-of-fact tone.
When the military discovered his true age, they kicked him out. He re-enlisted before his paperwork caught up with him. By the time it did, he was already stationed in England.
Because he was underage, John was placed with 1,300 other young soldiers who were waiting to turn 19, the minimum age at the time for Canadians to fight. John and the others practised drill relentlessly, but he never fought in the trenches – the Great War ended when he was still 18.
After the war, John immigrated to the United States and received vocational training as an electrician. He got married, raised a family and owned a mechanical contracting business until he retired at age 89.
As a retiree, John had time to complete his schooling which had been interrupted seven decades earlier. Throughout his adult life, John valued education and literacy, but his many commitments prevented him from finishing what he’d started. Undaunted, John was 90 when he obtained his high school diploma and graduated with a 90.5 % average. Better late than never, indeed.
To acknowledge the last Canadian veteran of The War to End All Wars, the Harper government offered John a state funeral but he declined out of respect for all the soldiers who died without that honour. He passed away Feb. 10, 2010 at 109. 

Read 5875 times Last modified on Wednesday, 19 March 2014 13:54
Dominique Liboiron

Dominique Liboiron is a speaker, author, teacher, journalist and photographer. To raise awareness about heart disease and to honour the life of one of its victims, Liboiron canoed from Saskatchewan to New Orleans. He is the first person to undertake that journey. He enjoys outdoor sports such as camping, hunting, fly fishing and canoeing.