Don, a resident of Tapestry at Victoria Harbour, is one of our company’s Ambassadors – volunteer community spokespeople who are pleased to share what they love about their life and living at Tapestry. We are very pleased to share Don’s story in print and video. Like all of our residents, Don inspires us with an approach to life that emphasizes being flexible, keeping a good sense of humour and staying active to remain healthy. He reminds us that while each one of us will get older – you don’t have to get “old”.
After his beloved wife passed away, Don was determined not to be a burden to his two children. He knew he needed to move forward and started to explore the possibility of living in a community where he could enjoy an active social life and continue to pursue his passions, including lawn bowling.
As part of his search for a new home, Don visited several established seniors’ communities in Victoria. He knew almost immediately after stepping inside they were not for him. That all changed the second he visited Tapestry at Victoria Harbour, the city’s newest active aging community which was named “Best in Wellness” in North America in 2021.
“From the moment I arrived, I guess you could say that Tapestry was the perfect fit for me,” says Don, thinking back to his first visit and the initial six-day trial stay he enjoyed. “Everything was excellent; the food, the chefs, the social activities, the focus on wellness and the employees. I simply couldn’t have asked for more.”
With his humble upbringing in rural Ontario, young Don might never have imagined himself one day living in Tapestry in the heart of beautiful downtown Victoria. Raised during the Great Depression, daily life was often a struggle as his parents worked hard to make ends meet while he found odd jobs like hawking soda to the men building war-time homes for the factory workers manufacturing airplanes like the Lancaster Bomber during the Second World War.
Never encouraged by his parents to pursue higher education, Don left school early and started a career that would span decades and take him to major cities in Canada. Following in his father’s footsteps, his first job was working with the local railways.
That soon led to a position in aircraft manufacturing for the company contracted to produce the storied Avro “Arrow”. Despite not having maintenance experience, he was hired for the position based on his positive attitude and being a burly guy that knew how to play hockey – a guaranteed career booster in Canada where hockey is more religion than sport.
“While I regret not completing my education and would encourage others to do so, I always believed that the people who got ahead were flexible, had a good sense of humour, a good personality and simply treated other people properly,” says Don. “I’m very proud of the career I have had through the years.”
After deciding to leave Avro, Don took a job at Air Canada as a “ramp rat”, an affectionate term for the individuals responsible for on-the-ground aviation activities including loading and unloading baggage and operating ground equipment. With his strong work ethic and flexible approach, he assumed progressively senior roles with Air Canada, a company he stays fondly involved with as an active member of the “Pionairs”, 16,000 Air Canada retirees who continue to stay globally connected.
Don worked his way up through various departments, including reservations and customer service, to the senior role of Airport Manager in Victoria and then Winnipeg. After taking an early retirement, he eventually returned to aviation and was hired by Air Ontario to start-up the Toronto Island Airport (now known as the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport). He worked for another 11 years in a variety of locations.
Audrey, who he married in 1955, would travel across the country with Don as he assumed these various positions, always the devoted wife and mother of their two cherished children.
“I met Audrey in 1953 and we were married in 1955,” says Don, reflecting on the early days they spent dancing at the Wagon Wheel and eating the Chinese food they so adored. “She was a good mother and beautiful….and I thought I was pretty bloody lucky to meet her.”
Don becomes emotional when he speaks of Audrey – clearly the love of his life. He is particularly sad that she passed before they could both fully enjoy their retirement years and benefit from the savings they worked so diligently to accumulate together.
Not a single day passes that Don doesn’t think about Audrey or sit on the bench on a nearby beach dedicated in her memory. One of the things he values about living at Tapestry is that other residents have gone through the same difficult experience of losing a spouse and can talk honestly about it while supporting each other.
Don’s family has also been a tremendous support. He is very proud of his son and daughter, cherishes his five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, and is anxiously anticipating the arrival of another great-grandchild. “My kids have been the biggest help to me over the years,” says Don. “They really have supported me….my family is everything to me!”
Today at Tapestry Don has made many new friends and established strong connections with other residents he now considers family. He is proud to be the Chair of the Social Committee and enjoys organizing activities that help community members stay active and engaged. “I always believe if you stay active, you’ll be healthy,” says Don with a smile. “You have to keep moving and you’ll be ok. As they say, a rolling stone gathers no moss!”
Truer words were never spoken about Don’s experience at Tapestry. If he’s not across the street lawn bowling, he’s playing euchre or poker, dancing up a storm in the Pub or creating one of his famous recipes to share with the Tapestry Dinner Club, a group of residents that regularly enjoy each other’s company and culinary creations. Don, who loves to cook, currently enjoys preparing a fragrant broccoli and shrimp dish with udon noodles stir-fried to delicious perfection.
Aside from marrying Audrey, Don believes moving into Tapestry was the best decision he ever made. He believes the vibrancy of the community and its focus on active living is so important to staying healthy and happy as you age.
“Everybody gets older,” says Don with a charming wink of his eye. “But you don’t have to be old!”