Meet the 99-year-old Second World War veteran handing out poppies
TORONTO -- Art Boudreau was only 19 years old when he enlisted to serve in the Second World War.
In four months, the now-99-year-old veteran will be a century old. But he still continues to serve Canada by running the poppy donation table in an Ottawa mall.
It all started more than three decades ago, following a trip to the shopping centre where he saw one person selling poppies.
“There was a lad there all by himself and I said, ‘Where is your partner?’ He didn't have one so I went home, got dressed and I sat,” Boudreau told CTV News.
Dozens of years later, he’s a staple at the mall’s poppy donation table every November. He beams as he pins poppies on people and even the baby strollers of the parents who donate.
But it’s not just about pinning poppies for Boudreau, who often reminds people of the sacrifices behind the symbol.
“I’ve lost friends and I remember them. And that's when I get emotional,” he said, adding that, for years, he cried “every time” he heard the “Last Post” -- the bugle call indicating a soldier has gone to their final rest.
It’s traditionally played during commemorative services such as Remembrance Day.
Boudreau was born in Moncton, N.B. After enlisting, he was shipped out to England just days after war was declared in September 1939.
He started out as a gunner and by the end of the Second World War he was a radio operator. He was at this post during the Italian campaign, which killed nearly 6,000 Canadians.
One plane crash he saw in Sicily has stayed close to his heart. “In that crash, we lost 11 really nice people,” he said, adding that “the poppy is to remember those people.”
Boudreau hopes the people he now meets at the mall also learn the life-long lessons.
“I hope they take away a remembrance of what happened and maybe keep it going. Not let it lapse,” he said.