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97-year-old competitive horseshoe player captured emotional moments on camera during Second World War

Saanich, B.C. -

According to the message embroidered on Bob Curtis' ball cap, "It took (him) 97 years to look this good."

But this is a story about how Bob feels so “great” at his age.

It included Bob driving himself in his purple pickup truck, at least twice a week, to go play horseshoes.

“Oh yeah!” Bob laughs. “I love horseshoes!”

The 97-year-old’s been told he’s the oldest competitive horseshoe league player in the country.

“Wherever there’s a tournament, I go in it,” Bob smiles.

“I can hold my own,” he adds, though he’s too humble to show all the hardware he takes home.

Perhaps that’s the same confidence that inspired his teenage self to volunteer for the Air Force when Canada joined the Second World War.

He wasn’t expecting to have to wait so long when he got to the recruitment office.

“I waited, but then I told them, ‘You’ve had your chance!’” Bob says. “And I walked across the road [to the naval recruitment office] and the Navy took me right away!”

Two days later Bob was sent to training, before serving around the Atlantic during the Second World War.

“That’s the ship I was on,” Bob says, pointing to one of the countless black and white photographs he took during his service.

Bob also shows the special licence he was issued to take pictures on board, before flipping through an album of photographs, ranging from depth-charges going off at sea to huge waves crashing over the bow.

Bob also took pictures of the friends he made, before capturing the burials at sea for the ones he lost.

After three years around the Atlantic, Bob was set to sail across the Pacific to Japan, until the bomb in Hiroshima changed everything, and the war ended shortly after.

“I’m one of the lucky ones,” Bob says. “I got back home.”

And every day since, Bob’s felt grateful that he was lucky enough to marry the love of his life.

After being married to Ellie for 67 years, raising two children, and relishing four grandchildren, Bob has no doubt what they spent the war fighting for.

“It’s family,” Bob says. “You've got to look after each other.”

Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why Ellie gave Bob that baseball cap before she died. It originally said: "It took me 90 years to look this good."

It’s a reminder that — no matter what your age — you feel so great when you surround yourself with love.

Perhaps that’s why, for the past seven years, Bob’s been paying to update the embroidery on the cap every year, to keep the age current.

“The girl who does it says, 'When you turn 100, you get it done for free!'” Top Stories

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