The Queen, the Governor General, the prime minister, and the commander of Maritime Forces Pacific were some of the dignitaries who sent their congratulations to Peter Godwin Chance on his 100th birthday on Tuesday.
The centenarian, who lives independently in Sidney, had a Zoom party with well-wishes from dignitaries, comrades-in arms and friends.
When asked about the secret to his longevity he said: “It has a lot to do with good luck — and good genes,” adding: “I also have a tot of single-malt whisky every night.”
The Royal Canadian Navy was just 10 years old when Chance was born on Nov. 24, 1920, in Ottawa.
He began his naval career with the Ottawa Naval Reserve Division, HMCS Carleton, in 1938. He joined his first ship, HMCS St. Laurent, in September 1939, days after the Second World War started.
It would be the start of a more than 30-year naval career in ships ranging from frigates and destroyers to cruisers, battleships and aircraft carriers in various theatres of conflicts, including D-Day and Korea.
He rose through the ranks, from a midshipman to the command of a frigate and destroyer in Canada’s post-war navy. He also held senior staff positions ashore in Canada, the United Kingdom and United States.
He did not slow down after his retirement from the navy, taking a position at the Osgoode Hall Law School at York University.
After moving to Victoria in 1974, he began a 42-year association with the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award.
He said that he doesn’t miss having to shovel snow, to the point that “I am even willing to put up with the rain.”
He moved to Sidney about 30 years ago to get closer to the sea.
“Me and my best pal Skinny spent a lot of time sailing out of Bosuns Marina with our wives.”
After retirement, he continued to serve the community, taking on a number of roles with the Naval Association of Canada, the ALS Society of B.C., the Maritime Museum of B.C., the Royal Canadian Legion, the Nautical Institute and the Saanich Peninsula Hospital and Healthcare Foundation.
“We think of him as a walking history book,” said Gerald Pash, who has known Chance since 1988. “He gets called up as a speaker for many military historical events, such as the Battle of the Atlantic.”
He has been married twice, but his companion these days is Lily Mae, his nine-year-old cat. He has two sons and two daughters.
Chance has penned an autobiography, A Sailor’s Life. It speaks of the fullness of a lifetime achieved at sea and ashore.