by Sarah Lord on Sunday July 25 2021
What present can you give a person turning 100 years — a day on the lake, fishing, of course.
Nelson's George Coletti recently celebrated his 100th year birthday, and what did the Heritage City resident do to commemorate the momentous occasion, he went fishing the family.
"The celebration was fantastic," the centurion told Daily Dose Reporter Sarah Lord.
"35 or 40 of my close relatives came for it. It lasted off and on for three or four days."
The Nelson centenarian said he received a postcard from the Canadian Governor-General, wishing him all the best. But it's on the lake where he likes to celebrate his birthdays.
"On my 95th birthday, I was out fishing, and I hooked a seven-pound trout right in front of my house," said George Sr. "No one has caught a fish that big that I know of in many years."
George Sr. he first dropped a rod in the water at the tender age of seven with his father — a willow stick and a few inches of line.
"I've fished ever since and still do. My son George will come here quite often on a Saturday; we still go out. I've been a fisherman all my life.”
It was a very productive 100th birthday on the lake for George Coletti. — Submitted photo
George Sr. says longevity is in his family.
"My mother lived until she was 99 (four months shy of 100 years), so I guess I took after my mother."
George Sr. said he has five living children,14 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
"Don't ask me how many cousins," he jokes.
George Coletti was born on July 2nd, 1921, in Ladysmith on Vancouver Island. His mother arrived from Italy to Nelson in 1902. His father Louis came over from Italy at 17 and settled near Grand Forks, working for the Grandby coal mine.
George Sr's parents married in 1919. Louis had just gotten out of the army, so the couple moved to Ladysmith, where his father worked with a coal company. His mother wanted to move to Nelson, where she had five brothers and four sisters. The family moved to Nelson in 1926 when George Sr. was five years old.
The couple purchased Nelson Grocery, a little Italian grocery store, working the store for decades.
In the 1950s, George bought the building from his father and turned it into an antique store. Today, the building's owner is George's son, Lou.
"There are too many Louis'," George laughs "He still owns the building and has an antique store there. It's still running."
George Sr. was the second oldest with four sisters whom he has outlived. George has a big family.
"My wife and I had six children: one daughter, Tanis. And we had five sons. The second oldest son, Gordon, was killed in a diving accident in Penticton Harbour. We lost him. My daughter lives in Summerland. My son Doug lives in Prince George. And all the others, David, Lou and George, all live in Nelson."
George Sr. with children (from left) Doug, Lou, Tanis, George Jr. and David. — Submitted photo
He still thinks about when he lost the love of his life, Kay.
"My wife died of Lou Gehrig's disease 19 years ago (in 2002). She was the most wonderful lady I've ever known. She was a home economics teacher and taught in both senior schools. She was just a sweetheart. Everybody loved her. I miss her dearly. My children and their children have filled the hole very well."
George Sr's favourite part about growing up in Nelson will not surprise you:
"It's the great outdoors. I spent many a weekend or week climbing up the mountains around Nelson. A lot of times by myself, camping overnight."
After graduating from St. Joseph's School (like his mother), George joined the Navy from 1942 to 1945. It was a memorable time.
"I was in the Canadian Navy on a ship called the Acadia for two and half years."
This ship is still floating as part of the Maritime Museum in Halifax. George submitted mementos from the Acadia, including some 200 pictures, to the museum.
"You weren't supposed to take pictures, but if I hadn't done it, they would not exist. The museum is very happy to have them," George Sr. says.
George Sr. is a lifelong volunteer and has contributed immensely to the community. His volunteerism spans decades on hospital boards, like the former St. Francis and Nelson hospital.
"I was very busy in hospital representation," he says.
George Sr. is still a volunteer.
"I'm still in the Nelson Gyro Club. 65 years. I'm the oldest member and the longest member." Although primarily a fraternal club, the Gyros have taken on service projects over the years, including maintaining their namesake park and canvassing for charities.
George Sr. has noticed Nelson change over time.
"Very much so. Too many people," George Sr. laughs. "No, it's been a great city. Nelson, for its age, was always a big city. At one time, it was the fourth largest city in BC, after Victoria, Vancouver, and New Westminster. It was bigger than the Okanagan cities. Nelson had a streetcar system until 1949.”
Healthwise, George Sr. is doing well for a centurion. His kids and their spouses take good care of him, he says, and he is still living in his big, beautiful waterfront home.
"I feel pretty good. I've got congestive heart failure, but I've lived with it for many years. Aches and pains? Not very many. I've been very fortunate. But my eyesight is not very good."
Part of what has kept him young is staying connected with the community.
"All my old original friends are gone, of course, but I still have a lot of new friends that live in Nelson, and they're very good to me. They take me fishing and hunting."
George Sr. has a final wish for his life:
“I hope I'm still fishing the day I die."