Howie Valleau, 94, talks about his life which has been quite an interesting one in so many ways. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Howie Valleau, 94, talks about his life which has been quite an interesting one in so many ways. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Logging truck driver, lottery jackpot winner all part of a wonderful life for Chemainus vet

Father of five old-age pensioners served a year in the navy during The Second World War

‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ might be a good title for a movie if someone ever decided to do one about Chemainus’ Howie Valleau.

At 94, Valleau has just about done it all. He served in the Royal Canadian Navy toward the end of The Second World War, but that was a long time ago now and just the beginning of many adventures that followed.

He worked in the forest industry for many years, recorded three holes-in-one during his time as an avid golfer, enjoyed a long tenure in curling. Heck, he even won the lottery.

Combined with all the usual aspects of family life, he plans to keep busy and doing all he can.

“You know you’re getting old when you’ve got five kids getting the old age pension,” he chuckled.

Kaayla (yes, ‘aa’ is the way it’s spelled), his oldest daughter, is 73; son Clifford just turned 70; daughter Susan is 68; son Ted’s 66; and daughter Lori hits 65 in January.

Valleau’s prime focus this week has been Remembrance Day, as one of the Royal Canadian Legion’s representatives in the special service for invited guests only at the Chemainus Cenotaph.

“I go all the time,” Valleau said. “I stand back in the crowd.”

This time, he’ll be front and centre as one of the Chemainus Legion’s last five surviving members from the Second World War.

“I’m getting to be one of the last of the last,” Valleau conceded. “They asked me is I wanted to go to the Cenotaph. There’s not going to be very many this year.”

Son Ted was going to accompany him for the ceremony Wednesday, Nov. 11 before a much smaller gathering due to restrictions necessitated by COVID-19.

Valleau was actually born in Toledo, Oregon but “I came to Canada when I was a babe,” he said.

Six brothers are all now deceased. “Why me? out of all the crew,” pondered Valleau. “I’ve asked that question, but nobody seems to be able to answer that question.”

His lone sister is 97 and living in Saskatoon.

“I keep in touch with her on the phone or email,” noted Valleau. “She looks just like my mother. She looks really good.”

The family homestead was in Flaxcombe, Saskatchewan in the Kindersley area where it was “flat as a pool table,” according to Valleau. “Actually, around there it was a little bit hilly.”

Valleau’s dad got frustrated trying to run the farm there and moved the family to Duncan in the area between Mount Prevost and Mount Sicker in 1937.

“They called it Little Saskatchewan,” chuckled Valleau. “There were a lot of Saskatchewan people there.”

The third youngest of the clan, he went to Koksilah School in 1938 but eventually dropped out of school when he was 14.

“I was in Grade 8,” he recalled. “I didn’t even graduate. Mind you, I’ve lived a great life ever since.”

His father was working with MacMillan Export Company and Valleau followed him into the forest industry. In the fall of 1943, he was working at Camp 6 in Caycuse when it was shut down in the wintertime.

“In those days, we got snow – lots of it,” he recalled.

In stark contrast, by November of 1943 he headed off to Victoria to join the navy at 17. “I was too young, but I still got in,” he noted.

“I actually don’t know how I got signed up. They took us at 17 1/2. I was still 17. They were looking for bodies, I guess.”

Valleau spent time in Esquimalt in January of 1944 and went over to Vancouver for six weeks of basic training before heading to the East Coast. He started at Cornwallis, Nova Scotia doing more training before being literally shipped out to a ship. His whole term of navy enlistment lasted nearly a year until the war ended.

“We didn’t do much,” chuckled Valleau. “We did the odd searching for U-boats. We took trainees out, gunneries, and we escorted a few ships.”

Being on the waters of the Atlantic was an experience. “We found out how rough the Bay of Fundy was right off the bat,” he indicated.

Dead calm seas could give way to rough waters in short order.

Valleau never wound up going to Europe.

“The ship was supposed to go to the Channel,” he noted. “It was designated for the Channel and something happened and it didn’t go. We became a bull cook ship and did odd jobs.”

Valleau came back to B.C. in November of 1945 and was discharged from the navy in the early part of 1946.

“I turned my sights to working in the forest industry,” he said.

Valleau did that for 52 years.

“I did most of the jobs in the woods,” he noted. “I did a bit of falling.”

His main claim to fame came as a logging truck driver for 35 years.

Valleau moved his family to the Westholme area near the Anglican Church cemetery in 1956.

“That’s where the kids grew up,” he stated. “They never regretted it. They learned to live that way.”

Lady luck smiled on Valleau in 1998 when he collected a cool $1 million jackpot in Lotto 6/49. He kept playing for two years after that until 2000 and didn’t win a dime so he decided his lottery days were done.

“It just wouldn’t pay,” he shrugged. “You guys just lost yourselves $200 a month.”

Valleau was already saving loads of money anyway after giving up alcohol in 1981.

“I kind of had a lot of money in my pocket,” he chuckled. “I just quiet ‘er cold. That’s how I found out I had a lot of money.”

More notoriety came to Valleau through his long affiliations in golf and curling.

“I had a good career in golf,” he said. “I enjoyed that immensely. It was the challenge, same as curling.

“Out on the Prairies, we’d watch and curl out there. We were too young and besides you couldn’t throw the rocks through the frost – it was too cold.”

But he found his niche for many years with the Duncan Curling Club. And Mount Brenton Golf Course became a favourite place for his other recreational passion, with two holes-in-one on No. 14 and one on No. 11 there to his credit.

“My knee went haywire,” he indicated. “I had a choice either play golf or go curling. I knew curling was going to be painful so I chose golf.”

He ended up with 40 years in curling and continued to play golf until just a couple of years ago when he was 92.

Just like Jimmy Stewart, Valleau has long realized there’s a lot to be thankful for about his life. It just didn’t take a guardian angel to point that out to him.

Remembrance DayRoyal Canadian NavyVeterans

 

Howie Valleau spent much of his life in the forest industry driving logging trucks. (Photo submitted)

Howie Valleau spent much of his life in the forest industry driving logging trucks. (Photo submitted)

Howie Valleau’s class photo from Koksilah School in Duncan in 1938. He’s seventh from the left in the back row. (Photo submitted)

Howie Valleau’s class photo from Koksilah School in Duncan in 1938. He’s seventh from the left in the back row. (Photo submitted)

Howie Valleau ready to partake in Remembrance Day activities with the Royal Canadian Legion. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Howie Valleau ready to partake in Remembrance Day activities with the Royal Canadian Legion. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Howie Valleau’s short tenure in the Navy has been just a small part of his remarkable life. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Howie Valleau’s short tenure in the Navy has been just a small part of his remarkable life. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Just Posted

Black Press file photo
RCMP seek suspect in Vancouver Island-wide crime spree

Crimes stretched from Deep Bay to Qualicum, Ladysmith, Chemainus and Youbou

North Cowichan’s committee of the whole have rejected staff’s recommendation to limit the use of fireworks to Halloween. (File photo)
North Cowichan rejects limiting fireworks to Halloween

Municipality decides staff recommendation would be unpopular

Flag exhibit is now set up in the Chemainus Valley Museum. (Photo by Val Galvin)
Fibre artists put their unique twists on climate change exhibit

Red Flag warning label affixed to collection now on display at the Chemainus Valley Museum

Things are looking up for Vancouver Island as zero COVID-19 cases have been reported for the first time since October. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Island records zero new COVID-19 cases for the first time since October

For the first time since October, the province is reporting zero new… Continue reading

Letters to the editor.
Many questions emerge from opioid dealer’s sentence

Leniency hard to fathom, especially after judge’s harsh words

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

A North Vancouver man was arrested Friday and three police officers were injured after a 10-person broke out at English Bay on June 19, 2021. (Youtube/Screen grab)
Man arrested, 3 police injured during 10-person brawl at Vancouver beach

The arrest was captured on video by bystanders, many of whom heckled the officers as they struggled with the handcuffed man

Most Read