William (Duke) Procter
By ROD MICKLEBURGH
"What did you do in the war, daddy?" Duke Procter has an answer few can match: "I was a lumberjack." The day before his infantry unit was to be shipped out, he was ordered to report for duty in the thick bush on the Scottish-Eng-land border. There the B.C. farm boy finished out the war cutting trees.
"The timber was used on the front lines. They were loading trains full of lumber day and night," Mr. Procter recalls. "There were about 200 of us up there. A hell of a bunch. But it was damn hard work. Ten hours a day some-times."
He says he was probably chosen because of the farmland he had cleared back home - and be-cause, not yet 17, he was under-aged. "I never went to the front lines at all. All the people I trained with went to Vimy Ridge. Many of them got killed. They were mowed down with machine guns when they came out of the trenches. I had a lot of luck."
Today, he lives in the pleasant Okanagan city of Vernon, and he says he doesn't feel a day over 80. He bowls twice a week, square-dances when a good caller comes to town, and laments that his horseshoe tossing isn't what it used to be. He gave up driving only last year. To celebrate turning 100, he made his first parachute jump. "I just thought it would be a good thing to do. You feel like a rock going down. Then the chute opens. It was as nice as you could have it."
He farmed most of his life and has no regrets. "I had a hard life, but a hard and good life. And I don't mean half-good. I mean damned good. I couldn't have had it better. If you find anyone who can do more jobs than me, I would eat my shirt."
And yes, Mr. Procter will march in Monday's Remembrance Day parade in nearby Lumby, where he has been a Legion member for 75 years. "I've got a good warm coat, and I march at the back end. Then it doesn't matter if I take short steps."
Asked what he will be thinking about, he falters. "I've got to think about all those poor ones who didn't come back." Then he begins to weep