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Happy 105th Birthday to John Boyd!

Jan 26, 2018

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The LTSE interprofessional care team came together and it was all hands on deck for a recent visit with Brigadier-General Kevin Cotten, the Commandant of the Canadian Forces College.

The occasion was a warm and heartfelt tribute in honour of Sunnybrook veteran Mr. John Boyd’s 105th birthday celebration. Born to Ukrainian immigrants on January 26, 1913, in Edmonton, John reminisced about his earliest memory. “I can remember my grandfather picking me up in a wagon and taking me for a ride and for a visit into the city,” he recalled.

General Cotten presented John with a formal certificate on behalf of the Canadian Forces and a Commandant’s gold coin with the words “Knowledge Is Power” (in Latin) inscribed on one side.

It will be two years in April that Mr. Boyd has lived at the Sunnybrook Veterans Centre. Prior to that he lived at Christie Gardens, a retirement community located in The Annex and, coincidentally, situated in the same location as what was previously the Christie Street Veteran’s Hospital, the precursor to Sunnybrook Veterans' Hospital.

From his early years, John was progressive and devoted his life to making Canada a better place. A store clerk’s son, he grew up fighting against poverty and during the depression took part in left-wing youth movements. In 1934, he moved to Toronto with his wife Gladys, to edit the Young Worker, a Communist newspaper, and in 1939 they moved to Winnipeg where John managed a co-op creamery.

In 1942 they returned to Toronto where John edited the newspaper, the Canadian Tribune. At the age of 30, he was elected a school trustee with the Toronto Board of Education but left mid-term to join the Army where he was based in Kingston with the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals and the Communications and Electronics Branch. He joined up “because it was important to do my part and to fight fascism and the Nazis.” With his strong writing skills he was quickly put to work as the editor of the Armed Forces magazine, The Signalman.

After the war he became editor of another Communist Party publication called The Daily Tribune. Over the next twenty-two years, John wrote extensively and travelled widely. In 1968 while living with Gladys in Prague, Czechoslovakia, as editor of an international journal, he discovered his love of painting and began to study art. On their return to Canada, John won awards as an editor of Hospital Administration magazine.

John has spent his life caring deeply about the city and its people. He worked tirelessly in support of the co-operative housing projects by the St. Lawrence Market, and spent 25 years, until his late nineties, as a Woodsworth Housing Co-op activist.

Over the years, John’s artistic talent shone through brightly. An accomplished painter, he created numerous paintings in oil, and later discovered his real love for watercolour. His work has been featured in several art shows over the years.

Gladys and John had two sons, Kim and Zane (both deceased) and a daughter, Bonnie, a regular visitor, along with daughter-in-law, Diane, and many friends and other family members. A good cook and equal partner in his marriage, John was an early feminist and very much ahead of his time. John and Gladys enjoyed 52 years together until her death in 1985.

Today, due to macular degeneration, he is painting very little but still enjoys working with the art therapists at the Veterans Centre. Some of his work was featured in the Sunnybrook Veterans Art Show last fall.

As a lifelong learner, the pursuit of knowledge is still very important to him. He avidly follows world news and each week he takes part in L Wing's “Brain Aerobics” a weekly gathering of veterans, led by recreation and occupational therapy staff, who challenge one another to keep up to date and stretch the mind.

When asked what keeps him young, John shared his secret to a long life. “Always have friends a generation or two younger, keep your body moving, and enjoy a glass of wine or beer regularly.”