General Richard Rohmer not slowing down at 99


Canada's most decorated military veteran is celebrating his latest accomplishment, turning 99 years old on Tuesday.

Major-General Richard Rohmer has been living in Collingwood for several years now, where he marked the milestone alongside close friends and family, being greeted by a birthday bagpipe salute at his front door.

"I'm surprised and enjoyed it," Rohmer said with fondness. "I don't know what it is to be 99! But I do know it's a long period of time."

Over that long period of time, Rohmer has earned countless accolades throughout his decades-long career of public service. He played a significant role on D-Day and in the Battle of Normandy during the Second World War as a fighter-reconnaissance pilot.

He currently holds numerous titles, including Honorary Lieutenant General of the Canadian Armed Forces. He is an Officer of the Order of Canada and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, amongst many other honours.

Rohmer says the secret to his success is that he never lets an opportunity go by, even at 99 years old.

"[My] day is always full. I've got about four different projects on at any one time, Rohmer says. "I'm an opportunist. If I see an opportunity going by, I will attempt to seize it, whether it's writing a book, doing a film, no matter what it is."

Rohmer is currently working on his latest published book. The poetry anthology, which he started decades ago and never completed, will be just the latest of more than 30 works of literature with his byline attached.

"When I saw that, I went and picked up this little book that I had written of poetry 40 years ago…I hadn't looked at it," Rohmer says. "I opened it up and read the poetry that I had written 40 years ago…and I said, that's not bad, that's not bad at all!"

The General spent his 99th birthday in the company of friends, accepting visits and phone calls from his many notable connections throughout the day, including a bagpipe salute organized by his friends Peter and Gail.

While the bagpipe performance was a gift for the General, it doubled as a gift for the bagpiper himself.

"This is really an event that I'll always remember," says Mark Rich, a bagpiper with the Bein Gorm Highlanders. "Bagpipes are often associated with times of sorrow and memory, and this is one of celebration and looking forward. I'm hoping with 99 will come 100 next year, so obviously a high point in my piping career."

Simcoe-Grey MP Terry Dowdall also paid a visit, dropping off a certificate in honour of General Rohmer's big day to go along with a letter sent by Premier Doug Ford as well.

"As soon as I heard, I knew that we had to make sure we were here to congratulate him," says Dowdall.

"We're so happy that you live here in Simcoe Grey. It's certainly a bragging point for me!"

His advice for others is simple and reflects his lifelong passion for staying busy.

"The opportunities are here to be seized, and we have to be a generation of opportunists."