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Richmond philanthropist brings community together for 90th birthday

Orval Chapman is the founder of the Richmond Oxfam Committee and a long-time member of the Richmond United Church.

A Richmond philanthropist celebrated his 90th birthday doing his favourite thing — bringing people together and building community connections.

Friends from across the country and around Richmond gathered at Richmond United Church last Saturday, Sept . 16, to show their appreciation for Orval Chapman.

Chapman is a long-time Richmond resident and the founder of the Richmond Oxfam Committee.

Each attendee was greeted at the door with a warm “Hello, do I know you?” from Chapman, who just turned 90 years and two days old at the time.

Chapman, who used to be a teacher, told the Richmond News he wanted to bring his friends together to “increase (his) spirits and carry on the work” he has done as a volunteer.

“I want to say thank you to people who have been kind to me and I hope that maybe some of the people who hear what I have done will be interested in doing something similar,” he explained.

Seeing more than 60 people, some he hadn’t seen for years, sitting together and enjoying a meal together, Chapman said he felt “very happy.”

Becky Mortensen, one of the organizers, told the News she wanted to help out because Orval is “always doing something for everybody else.”

Mortensen met Chapman around 30 years ago through her mother, who was also involved in fundraising for the community.

“If he knows you and when your birthday is, he always acknowledges it,” she said.

Despite the scale of Saturday’s party, it did not draw the attention of the fire department.

Unlike Chapman’s 65th birthday.

“Each person had a (lit) candle and we were singing songs and singing ‘Happy Birthday’ and the smoke in the candles set off the smoke detector,” said Mortensen.

“The fire department came and said we had too many people. We didn’t realize that.

“It was a big celebration.”

No pain, no illnesses

Now a nonagenarian, Chapman said he’s living well with no pain and no illnesses.

He is also still rocking his brown hair — and he has never dyed it.

“You may wonder why I am still here,” Chapman said in his speech to his friends.

He credits his parents, who lived a long time, and the medical system he also credits the fact he never smoked or drank alcohol.

“I did not have to do hard, dangerous work. I never married. However, I have been fortunate to have kind, generous, interesting lady friends,” said Chapman.

“I try to look on the positive side.”

As Chapman gets back to his causes, he has one message for the community.

“People, be kind to one another,” he said.