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VIDEO: B.C. Senior, 101, takes first flying lesson

It was a birthday present for ‘adventurous’ Walter Martens

Walter Martens was told he would be picked up for a surprise gift, and when the car pulled into the parking lot of the Langley airport terminal building, he began to think it might have something to do with flying.

It was Saturday, Sept. 25, the day before the Abbotsford resident would celebrate his 101st birthday.

His son Harv had booked a flying lesson.

“At my age, I had a job crawling in [to the single engine plane],” Martens told the Langley Advance Times, chuckling.

Up he went, with his great-grandson Jordan Penner recording the flight.

“It was a clear day,” Martens recalled.

“I went over the mountains and saw all the rivers and lakes. I was excited.”

Daughter Eleanor Penner, a Langley resident, said her happy father exited the plane, calling the experience, “the best flight ever.”

At his birthday celebration Sunday, he was still “flying high,” Eleanor remarked.

“Boy! that was something else,” Martens told the 45 friends and family who attended the event.

“It was unbelievable!”

An adventurous Walter Martens is seen at the controls of his first flying lesson, a 101st birthday present, from the Langley airport on Saturday, Sept. 25. (Special to Langley Advance Times)
An adventurous Walter Martens is seen at the controls of his first flying lesson, a 101st birthday present, from the Langley airport on Saturday, Sept. 25. (Special to Langley Advance Times)

It was far from the first adventure for the father of five, grandfather of nine, and great-grandfather of 12 (who is awaiting his 13th grandchild, due next month).

A building contractor who was able to retire early, Martens has enjoyed an active retirement.

“He’s always been adventurous,” Eleanor said.

Martens went parasailing in Thailand at the age of 68.

He enjoyed water skiing until he was 80, and that year, his birthday gift was a hot air balloon ride.

On his 96th birthday, he went on an ultralight flight.

READ ALSO: VIDEO: South Langley man who survived being shot down during Second World War turns 100

READ ALSO: VIDEO: Langley veteran turns 100

When he turned 97, his present was a helicopter flight over Agassiz and Harrison.

For his 98th birthday, Martens went on a float plane ride over Vancouver harbor and Howe Sound.

Martens adventures were interrupted in in March of 2019 when he was injured while crossing a street.

“My dad rode his bike around Mill Lake daily for several years,” Eleanor recounted.

“Unfortunately, he was hit by a car while in a crosswalk. He made the headlines of the Abbotsford newspaper! Thankfully he has recovered enough to enjoy life again, at a little slower pace.”

Asked what he thought his 102nd birthday present should be, Martens laughed, then said probably “something smaller.”


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Dan Ferguson

About the Author: Dan Ferguson

Best recognized for my resemblance to St. Nick, I’m the guy you’ll often see out at community events and happenings around town.
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