At 94, Kurt Holstein has no plans of slowing down his volunteering.
He has been stationed outside Great Canadian Superstore in Langford selling poppies daily for the past two weeks. Over the past three years, he’s worked a shift every day there was one, totalling 45 shifts selling poppies for the Langford Legion.
“Well, I’ve been volunteering most of my life because I grew up very, very poor, with no social benefits, and I’m living in one of the best countries in the world as far as I know,” he said. “So I just want to give back as long as my health holds up.”
Holstein grew up in Regina in the 1930s during the Great Depression, and drought meant crops didn’t grow. His father died when Holstein was 14, leaving him the head of the household.
“I was lucky enough to find a job with the Canadian Pacific Railroad, but I didn’t drive trains, I drove spikes,” he said. He spent the early 1940s working and feeding his family, which meant when the Second World War started, he wasn’t able to enlist.
“I had visions of joining the navy, I probably would have landed out around here (on Vancouver Island) but circumstances didn’t allow it,” he said.
Having to provide for his family got him in the volunteering mindset from an early age and has continued throughout his life.
In Regina, he was active doing deliveries for a meals-on-wheels program and was on the board of directors of the Regina Lutheran Home for nine years. His extensive community involvement saw him rewarded with three different medals, presented to him by then Saskatchewan lieutenant governor Sylvia Fedoruk, and then prime minister Brian Mulroney.
Holstein said the poppy drive campaign gets more than 200 volunteers each year, but he was the one who put in the most hours over the past two years.
“All that wind and rain we’ve had, that doesn’t deter me, even at my age.”