Canada’s oldest veteran, John Boyd, has just received his second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Boyd is 108 years old and has lived through the Spanish Flu, did his part in WWII as part of the Communications and Electronics branch of the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals, and has lived far longer than many of us will.
Dr. David Shergold, a veteran himself, administered Boyd’s vaccine at the Sunnybrook Veterans Centre. In preparation for the shot, Dr. Shergold thanked Boyd for doing his part to help fight the current pandemic.
“It’s an honour. This is not my first pandemic,” Boyd said in response.
Boyd has lived through the Spanish Flu, which killed around 55,000 Canadians in 1918, and has seen his share of wars, illness, and despair. Boyd was born in Edmonton, Alberta, to Ukrainian immigrant parents and has had an extensive history as editor of various publications (including the Canadian Tribune).
He was also extremely instrumental in supporting the Woodsworth Housing Co-op project and remained an integral part of the committee until his late 90s.
In a fascinating interview with The Memory Project, Boyd recollects a time he was asked to leave the army due to his former political affiliations (he had been part of the communist party in his youth but later left the party).
The Army Examiner told Boyd that he had to leave Signals and could not provide an explanation. His superior said that he could dispute the decision by writing to the Ottawa Army Examiner but would have to do so after leaving the base.
Quarantined and presented with a chance to change the course of his life, Boyd saw an opportunity and seized it.
“As luck would have it, or serendipity, the chap next to me in the hut got the measles and we were quarantined for six weeks. So I decided that since I was quarantined for six weeks I’d write that letter to the Army Examiner in Ottawa, which I did,” he says.
Not only did the Examiner in Ottawa agree with the points he made in the letter, but he was also immediately hired as the editor of The Signalman (the newspaper for the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals). He spent many years running the newspaper and reporting on front-line action.
Boyd has lived at the Sunnybrook Veterans Centre for almost five years. He turned 108 on Jan. 26, 2021.