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Saanich 98-year-old's rebellious youth led to meaningful moment during Second World War

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SAANICH, B.C. -

When Ronnie Butcher is not playing bingo with a friend, the 98-year-old is telling jokes she declines to repeat.

“They’re not (jokes) that I could tell on television,” she laughs.

Ronnie also politely refrains from elaborating on what it was like being raised in a convent between the ages of three and 15, while her parents were working.

“I can’t put words to it,” she laughs.

But, Ronnie does reveal in her autobiography, titled ‘From Veronica with Love,’ that her middle name growing up was “trouble.”

“I’m a little rebellious,” she says before bursting into laughter. “Maybe a lot rebellious.”

Like when Ronnie repeatedly witnessed her neighbourhood in London being bombed during the war, she decided enlist in the air force when she was 17, on the first day she was eligible, without telling her parents.

“When I went home and told my father, who was already in the Royal Air Force, he just about had a fit,” Ronnie says.

While his disappointment felt devastating, Ronnie was undaunted.

“I wanted to do things that the average woman didn’t want to do,” Ronnie says.

Ronnie says she graduated from training near the top of her class and became one of the few women to become a plane mechanic, which she excelled at.

“I enjoyed having something to take apart and put together and make work,” Ronnie smiles. “And I had to fly in every plane that I worked on.”

While Ronnie has countless memories from her years of distinguished service, which led to being promoted, the one time her dad happened to visit her work was the most meaningful moment.

“I was at the bottom of the ramp saluting them as they came off the plane,” Ronnie smiles. “I heard (my dad) say to the guy in front of him, ‘That was my daughter!’”

And Ronnie says that was her “biggest accomplishment.”

“I wanted my dad to be proud of me,” she says, fighting back tears. “And he finally was.”

He realized his rebellious girl had grown up to become a tenacious and accomplished leader.

“Life has so many things to offer, so many different twists and turns in the road,” Ronnie says. “Focus on the good things.”

And after almost a century of travelling on that road, Ronnie says it’s best to live fearlessly — helping others, connecting with others, and laughing with others, especially when the punchlines can’t be repeated on TV.

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