In recent years, he has been a ‘senator,’ creator of a Maple Ridge park, and grandfather to one of the city’s most famous citizens.
And on Monday, Gordon Ladd will turn 100.
He is celebrating this weekend, with a round of golf.
If his grandson Andrew Ladd, a two-time Stanley Cup winner and now a New York Islander, is the consummate hockey player, then Gordon is a longevity all-star.
The centenarian is planning to go golfing on Saturday. On his 99th birthday, he played nine holes.
Gordon walks with a cane now, but it’s as much for gesturing and pointing as it is for support.
Up until the last two or three years, he has been spending the fair weather months creating a garden on city-owned property near his townhouse, and making model ships that he gives to his grandchildren.
Gordon was in the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps, landing at Normandy after the D-Day invasion, and bringing tanks and armoured vehicles into Europe for the final push against Hitler.
After the war, he took advantage of government programs to support veterans, and was able to buy six acres on what is now 123rd Avenue in Maple Ridge in 1953. He pursued a 33-year career at Scott Paper in New Westminster, and raised his family.
“You couldn’t ask for a better place,” he said. “It’s busy now, but it wasn’t before.”
His daughter Deb Schaufele said he’s been a great family man. He was an older dad, in his 40s and 50s when he was raising Deb and her brother Dave, and his kids remember his patient attention.
“He always had time to do things, and to play,” said Dave, 59. “He made tree forts, and a giant slide out of logs and trails in the bush.”
“And he’s been an incredible grandfather – involved in everything they did,” said Deb.
He was already a hockey fan, but when Gordon’s grandson was chosen to play for the Calgary Hitmen in the Western Hockey League, it fanned the flames.
“He became Andrew’s biggest fan,” said Deb. “We all did.”
Dave said Gordon used to take his now-famous grandson to hockey games when he was a kid, if mom and dad were busy. Then, as Andrew climbed to the peak of the sport, they made family trips to see him play in Calgary in ‘The Dub,’ and finally there were epic family trips to watch him play with the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Winnipeg Jets and now the Islanders.
Andrew sent him the puck from his first goal in the NHL. He’s also got a signed hockey stick from a game-winning goal Ladd scored during the epic playoff battles between the Vancouver Canucks and Blackhawks.
He signed the blade: “To the greatest grandpa in the world.”
The stick is there on grandpa’s photo-covered wall of fame in his home, and while Andrew features prominently, the other grandchildren are also well represented. Dave’s other boys both live locally, and Mike was a junior B goaltender, while Josh played for the Canada Wolverines in rugby league.
“He was the patriarch of the family,” Josh said of his grandfather. “Everyone looks up to him. I used to always say he’s the smartest person I know, and I still feel that way.”
Grandpa also has a sign on his wall that says, “Maple Ridge Senate in Session,” as a memento.
There was a group of seniors who met four or five times per week in the old Zellers coffee shop at Haney Place Mall, and they had a bit of local fame as the ‘senators.’
When his wife Joan passed away in 1998, Gordon went into a funk. A friend got him to join the senators. Dave said his dad slowly started to enjoy life again.
What did the senators do?
“We solved all the problems of the world.” Gordon smiles.
When Andrew first won the Stanley Cup in 2010, he was able to bring it to his hometown, and he took it to Zellers, so his grandpa and the senate members could get their photos taken with it.
Gordon is one of just three members of the Maple Ridge Senate left.
If there’s a problem with growing old, it’s that you outlive your friends, he said.
Then there’s the park he created over the past 20 years, complete with a stone-lined path, benches he built, and a plaque that his grandchildren bought that welcomes people to “Grandpa’s Garden.”
The ravine beside his townhouse was in need of beautification – it had been an unofficial garbage dump, and Gordon had to wade through tin cans and garbage to clean it up.
“I started planting rhododendrons, and I kept going,” he said.
Now there are about 300, they are almost the size of trees, and each spring the ravine blooms in all kinds of colours. There are also evergreens he planted that are climbing to 30 meters tall.
“I had a lot of help,” he said. “It’s nice to see it now.”
He never asked the city for permission, but remarks: “They’re not complaining about it.”
“He has spent a ton of money. It’s really, really pretty,” said Deb.
In the wetter months, he would build model ships – not from kits but by creating pieces he found in hobby stores and elsewhere. He’s got a large model of the HMS Victory, Lord Nelson’s Flagship, in his living room. It took three years to make. He made about 20 ships, and gave them to grandchildren.
Gordon has slowed down, but friend Al Ferris still brings him to lunch every day at the Maple Ridge seniors centre, to visit with friends.
“We just go to lunch, terrorize the neighbourhood, and then go home and have a nap,” said Al.
Gordon has worked in a gold mine and a logging camp and traveled a lot with his late wife. It’s been a busy life, and he said that’s the secret to a long one.
“I’ve been active all my life, and interested in things,” he said. “You’ve got to taken an interest in the things around you.”
His sister and the one surviving brother of five are both planning to be at his celebration this weekend, which will be attended by about 75 family members and close friends.