Langford man, 94, overcomes adversity to become tireless volunteer
Kurt gives a thumbs up and says “good show” to everyone wearing a poppy who passes him. After completing 45 of his two-hour poppy campaign shifts, the 94-year-old has come to a conclusion.
“It’s the best job I ever had,” Kurt smiles.
To understand why, we need to go back to Kurt’s first job on the railway. Back to the day when the then 16-year-old was working beside a track and heard a train turning the bend towards him.
“I could see these cars were swaying,” he says. “They were on the verge of coming off the track.”
Kurt started running down the bank away from it. The derailed boxcars followed behind him.
“I thought the world was coming to an end,” he says, pointing to a picture of the crash, where he missed being hit by metres.
When he returned home that night, Kurt remembers wondering if he had a guardian angel.
“I couldn’t leave my mother and the kids because they needed some support,” Kurt says. “There was no social assistance then.”
Kurt says he was living in poverty in rural Saskatchewan, with his mom and seven younger siblings. He had been “the man of the house” since he was 14, after his dad was institutionalized.
“I had to give up my youth.” Kurt says his life was limited to working, eating, and sleeping. “I couldn’t go out anywhere. No social life.”
While Kurt was too young to fight in the Second World War, he was old enough to help the countless farmers whose sons were sent overseas. After his full-time job on the railway, Kurt says he worked his neighbour’s crops and sent food to the troops.
“I served on the home front,” he says, before repeating himself quietly. “I served on the home front.”
After the war, Kurt made the most of the life he felt he had the privilege to keep living.
The medals he wears during his poppy campaign shifts were presented to him — by a lieutenant governor and a prime minister — for decades' worth of tireless volunteering at countless organizations, including the Royal Canadian Legion.
“When you do something good for someone else you feel good inside,” he says matter-of-factly.
Which is why volunteering always feels like “the best job in the world.” Which is why the 94-year-old says he will never stop serving.
“Everyone tells me to slow down, [but] it’s in my heart,” Kurt smiles. “I’d sooner burn out than rust out.”