Lifelong dancer celebrates a century

‘My girls are good to me,’ says Provo

One of the conditions for scheduling an interview with Clifford Provo, who turns 100 on Sept. 23, is that it can’t interfere with his happy hour.

Provo doesn’t miss Wednesday happy hour for anything, not even the Peace Arch News.

But it’s not the booze that lures the veteran into the Sunnyside Manor common area – he explained that he no longer drinks alcohol – it’s the dance floor.

Provo has been cutting up the floor his whole life. In fact, that’s how he met his late wife Norma, who he was married to for 72 years.

Admittedly slower on his feet – compared to his younger years – nowadays, Provo says, he prefers to dance the waltz.

He requested a band at his birthday party, to be held at White Rock Curling Club on Saturday. His daughter Linda Olrich said her papa has about 50 woman lined up waiting for a waltz.

“Some of them said ‘I’d come if you promise to dance with me.’ I don’t know how many I can get to dance with,” Provo said.

Born to a grain-farming family outside of Humboldt, Sask., Provo is a third-generation Canadian. He has three daughters (Linda, Connie and Cynthia), six grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.

Provo spent 25 years as a firefighter with the Royal Canadian Air Force, a job that he got offered through a chance encounter.

He was selling soda at a canteen when a suppler dropped by and offered him an extra 24 pops to sell on the side.

“Shortly after, the officer came to pick up the money. I told him that a guy gave me an extra 24. He said, ‘you’re such an honest man. I’ve been looking for a firefighter that’s honest, would you like to be?”

Provo accepted the offer.

“He said, you go to the fire hall. I’ll phone that you’re coming. I went to the fire hall and it was beautiful.”

Walking into that fire hall for the first time, Provo said, is one of his cherished memories.

“I walked in the fire hall and everything looked so nice and spotless. I was glad to be a firefighter.”

Provo retired from the air force in 1968, and got a job “right away” as a prison guard at a now-closed correctional facility in Nordegg, Alta., where he worked for a dozen years.

He’s called Surrey home for the past 16 years, and spent the last six living at Sunnyside Manor in the south end.

“I like to live to see my kids and I’m lucky all three live close, I see them often. They can walk here, they’re close,” he said. “I think that’s what keeps me going. If I didn’t have them, I couldn’t do it.”

Raising three girls, he said, was “pretty good,” adding that Linda, the middle child, was the “hardest one to raise.”

“At night, she would cry and I would shake the crib. And then start slowing up and slowing up.”

When he stopped shaking the crib, the crying would start again, he added.

“Then I would shake it again. You couldn’t walk with her, you had to run.”

If there’s one thing Provo can count on, it’s sharing a hug and a kiss with his daughters every Wednesday at 4 p.m.

“My girls are good to me.”

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