Skip to content

West Vancouver centenarian a celebrated volunteer

West Van 101-year-old has lent a hand throughout his long life
Fred Titcomb, who turns 102 in April, has spent much of his long life volunteering, including 35 years at the West Vancouver Seniors' Activity Centre.

Volunteering has been a continuous thread through the fabric of Fred Titcomb's life.

And that's saying something, because Titcomb - who turns 102 on April 17 - has been logging volunteer hours longer than most people have been alive.

Titcomb is the recipient of a 2014 B.C. Community Achievement Award for his 35-year dedication as a volunteer at the West Vancouver Seniors' Activity Centre.

"It's wonderful because I've had lots of different awards (including the Queen's Diamond Jubilee medal) but this one is pretty special," said Titcomb.

But the past three and a half decades of volunteering at the centre are only a small part of Titcomb's story.

He credits his mother - a "fantastic volunteer" - with sparking his interest in helping out.

"I just picked up from her because I seem to have been doing something like that all my life."

Titcomb was born in Moose Jaw, Sask., two days after the sinking of the Titanic. He came to Vancouver in 1933, "right in the middle of the Depression." He met his wife Ada and they began courting during the construction of the Lions Gate Bridge. They married and moved into a house on Duchess Avenue in West Vancouver around 1939.

"When we came and moved into West Vancouver, I immediately joined the volunteer fire department and was on the fire department for I guess 17 years, which at that time was mostly volunteers," said Titcomb.

The couple opened a craft store called Hobbyland on Marine Drive and Titcomb continued his volunteer activities, including 10 years as a director at the YMCA.

Titcomb said he was the first one in the door to the seniors activity centre when it opened in 1981.

"I immediately came and joined," he said. "I got involved in everything and it became almost like a full-time job coming here sometimes. It would fill a book for the number of things that I really did."

Titcomb helped raise donations for the cafeteria, learning the "simple things about a computer" so he could take in all the cheques and type up the receipts and thank you notes. He did the same during fundraising for the Marine Room.

Titcomb was chairman at the centre from 1984 to 1986, but his regular job since joining was always taking care of the statistics, recording how many people use the building and how many people do drop-ins.

"I love to do stats and it's all part of my life and I guess why I'm still around," he said.

Titcomb works at the seniors centre mornings now, five days a week.

"I stay away Saturday and Sunday because I think you have to have at least a little time away, but you know that's the most miserable time," he said. "Saturdays and Sundays I don't particularly like, because it's too lonely."

Titcomb said he lost his wife to dementia around 20 years ago and has lived by himself ever since.

"I loved her so much," he said.

The couple were married for 55 years, had two sons, four grandchildren and four great grandchildren.

Titcomb said his wife was a fantastic flower maker, crafting them out of wood fibre. "She was very, very good at crafts," he said. "(For) two or three years, she made all the artificial flowers for the May Day floats."

Titcomb said building floats and making decorations for the seniors centre was one thing that kept him going.

"I spent hours and hours doing that, for every Christmas, for every holiday kind of thing, Halloween and all that sort of stuff, I made I guess 20 some odd floats," he said.

"I spent a lot of time on each one. These are things that I just used to love to do."