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Richmond resident’s love of dancing helped him reach 100, says son

“I think the key to his longevity and ability to stay mobile was (he and my mom) danced. They danced so much.”

The key to reaching 100 may have been Doug Milton’s love of dancing.

That, at least, is according to his son Keith Milton, 70, who was reflecting on his dad’s life in an interview with the Richmond News ahead of Doug’s centennial birthday.

And on Sept. 5, Doug’s birthday, family members spanning four generations gathered at Keith’s South Surrey home to celebrate the milestone – some of whom Doug hadn’t seen in some time due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’ve had people ask me, ‘what’s his secret to living this long?’” said Keith. “And you know, yeah, he went through the Depression, he was very frugal, he worked hard, but I think the key to his longevity and ability to stay mobile was (he and my mom) danced. They danced so much.”

There was also another birthday party planned for Sept. 7 at the Maple Residences, an independent living centre in Steveston where Doug has lived for about the past five years, said Keith.

Doug, who was born in 1921, made his way west from his native Regina, Saskatchewan after the Second World War, during which he served with the RCAF, flying 43 missions over Germany around 1942-43.

“He got the Distinguished Flying Cross for his efforts in a big Halifax bomber. He was primarily a navigator,” said Keith. “He got quite a few recognitions, but the most important one to him, as far as just the hierarchy of medals and awards, is the Distinguished Flying Cross.”

After Doug came home from the war, he was able to attend the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon thanks to his service, where he earned a commerce degree.

He then got a job with National Revenue Canada and moved out to Vancouver with his late wife, Vi (short for Violet), whom he had married in 1942 when they were both 21.

In the 1960s, Doug and Vi took up dancing, said Keith.  

At least five nights a week, the pair would dance “every kind of dance you could imagine,” he said, and would travel to the Okanagan for a square dance festival.

“It was a very big part of his life.”

And while Doug now uses a walker, he still dances when he has the chance, Keith added.

When it comes to turning 100, Keith said his dad was “very keen on getting the letter from the Queen,” noting it’s something he’s talked about getting for years.

He had the letter framed and presented it to him during the family birthday celebration.

“I just marvel that the various things that he’s gone through – the war, of course, the Depression, television. I mean, when he was born television didn’t exist,” Keith said.

“You know, the things that he’s seen and done and the various different things that have been brought into common utilization… You just marvel at the things, in the 100 years that he’s lived, the things that have been innovative and brand new.”