Wim Ladan (left)

Wim Ladan (left)

All aboard!

Wim Ladan, 91, sets sail on Okanagan Lake as the oldest active member of the Vernon Yacht Club

Wim Ladan first met Canadians when his family took in Canadian soldiers after the liberation of Holland in 1945.

“It’s the Canadians that entered Holland first to get us free. A lot of them lost their lives. They were all fantastic. We loved them,” he said.

Ladan was a flight engineering student then, deliberately failing his exams because he knew he would be sent to work in Germany when he graduated. He was terrified after seeing friends shot and killed during round-ups of young men for German work camps.

“Meeting Canadians and learning more about Canada played a big part in deciding to emigrate. It sounded like a good place,” said Ladan, who came to Montreal in 1957, bringing his wife, Jo, and three children when he had a home ready for them. A fourth child was born in Canada.

“Canada has been good to us. The day after I arrived, I had a job with Canadian Aviation Electronics, and within three months I rented a house, bought some furniture and a car and I wanted my family back.”

He moved on with the company to research and development, enjoying the challenge. Later, he went to Ottawa to teach in a government research agency, Canada Centre of Remote Sensing, testing new equipment for aircraft.

“If somebody told me something was impossible, I always thought it would just take a little longer. I enjoyed working. I worked until I was 84,” he said.

He recalled that when he was doing his last job, at 84, the work was seen by a representative of the European Space Agency, who asked about his paper certification to do such technical work.

“I told him I didn’t have papers and he said I would never have had a chance to work in Europe where they want papers for everything. That’s what Canada did for me — gave me a chance — and I worked hard and proved myself. I brought something that was useful but they gave me the opportunity.”

While his work was important to him, he feels that it is the family that means the most.

“I’m tremendously proud of my children. And my grandchildren. They all do their own thing and find their own way through life. They’re good people. They care about others.”

Ladan and Jo moved to the North Okanagan in 2006. Sadly, she passed away last fall.

He continues his lifelong hobby, sailing.

“I started at 11 in Holland, renting a little boat and watching others and what they are doing and why, and taught myself. I sail in all kinds of weather because I know what can be done with a sail boat. Now, I just like to go on day trips on Okanagan Lake. There are lots of good places where you can moor and get something to eat if you know where to look. I sail from May to October, depending on the weather,” said Ladan, a member of the Vernon Yacht Club.

“It has been a great life. I’m glad I’m here. Life can be hard but on the other hand, life can be lovely, too. I want to stick around for a little bit more.”

Ladan, who will be 92 on Christmas Day, has seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, the newest, Tucker, born in July. The family is planning a trip to Holland next summer and he will show them where he grew up and introduce them to Dutch relatives. And, of course, he’s looking forward to getting his sail boat out on the lake in the spring.