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When Doug de Wolff was growing up on a small farm in Sardis, on the south side of Chilliwack, he knew the value of money.
“There wasn’t lots of money growing up,” the 101-year-old war veteran recalled Wednesday from his home in the Comox Valley. “In my early years, the currency was 25 cents. Everything was in terms of what you could buy for 25 cents and it was quite considerable. You could get a gallon of gas. You could get three loaves of bread for 25 cents or you could get a pound of ground beef.”
Life wasn’t easy, said de Wolff, who was born in 1918. His father died when he was six. His mother had a difficult time.
But there were cows and chickens and fruit trees on the farm, and even through the worst years of the Great Depression, there was food.
When he looks back over his long life, de Wolff is grateful for the kindness and help he received along the way.
That’s why last weekend, he made a generous donation to the Rapid Relief Fund. (He didn’t want to reveal the amount publicly.)
“All I can really say is, somehow, anything I needed was provided. I’m just trying to do the same for someone else. I felt it was something I would like to do and I’m grateful I was able to do so. I haven’t got too many more days left on this calendar. If I get into August, I’ll be 102. And the good Lord has been pretty good to me.”
De Wolff went to teacher’s college in what was then called the Vancouver Normal School and taught public school for years.
“I learned that a very small amount of help at the right time is so important and I had that,” he said. “When I started out my career, an uncle of mine gave me a cheque for $50 and I spent that $50 on doing little extra things and I managed to make it last for a whole year.”
One of the things he remembers buying with that $50 is a badminton racket for $1.49. It still brings a smile to his face.
De Wolff joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1941, marrying his wife, Beatrice, before he went overseas. He spent four years as a navigator in Lancaster bombers.
When he returned to Canada, the couple had a daughter, Alice, and a son, Bob. And the Canadian government gave de Wolff the opportunity to attend university if he kept his grades up.
De Wolff managed to graduate top of his class as a structural engineer. His company was known for its engineering work on McMahon Stadium in Calgary, bridges on Highway 1 through the mountains west of Calgary and snow sheds in Rogers Pass.
De Wolff left Calgary for the Comox Valley in 2015, where he lives with Alice and her partner, Cori Sandler.
“I was very grateful for these two girls who have looked after me,” he said.
He subscribes to the Times Colonist because it has the same crossword puzzle as the Calgary Herald “and no other crossword would do,” said Alice.
De Wolff also chose to give to the Rapid Relief Fund because his donation would be matched by Thrifty Foods.
“If I can put up a chunk of money, I’m glad someone else is going to join in. I have a great respect for dollars,” he said.
By Wednesday afternoon, the fund set up by the Victoria Foundation, the Jawl Foundation and the Times Colonist had reached $5.15 million.
More than $3.5 million has already been distributed in the community.
A challenge from Thrifty Foods to match funds received from Sunday to Wednesday up to $100,000 turned total donations into $200,000. That goal was met Tuesday morning, long before the midnight Wednesday deadline.
De Wolff is humble about his donation, but it’s clear Alice and Cori are proud of their centenarian.
“It’s a hard time. A lot of people are going through a hard time and Dad’s a generous guy,” said Alice.
“He’s always been really clear over the years with us — even if you just give a small amount, you don’t know what that person can do with that amount,” said Sandler.
HOW TO DONATE
Tax receipts will be issued. If you are open to receiving your tax receipt by PDF, please include an email address with your donation.
• Online: RapidReliefFund.ca
• Phone: 250-381-5532
• Mail: Send cheques (made out to the Victoria Foundation) to RapidRelief Fund, Victoria Foundation, 200-703 Broughton St., Victoria V8W 1E2
The Rapid Relief Fund was created by the Victoria Foundation, the Jawl Foundation, and the Times Colonist to help people in need as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. CHEK Television, Coast Outdoor Advertising and Black Press are helping to boost awareness. Every dollar received from donations goes out as grants to the community.
Donations are being distributed through the Victoria Foundation.