Doug Snair is not sure he believes in luck, and, he doesn’t use words like “centenarian.” But, as a 100-year-old, who has endured a long string of brushes with death, Snair has lived a very unlikely life.
“He downplays a lot of it,” says Luke Goulette, the manager of the retirement home in Arnprior, Ontario, where Snair resides.
“Because to him it was just a part of life, and something that happens to everybody, when actually, it didn’t.”
His narrow escapes started in 1917, when he survived the Halifax Explosion. The explosion killed almost two thousand people. He was very nearly one of them.
“I was only a year-and-a-half old,” recalls Snair, as he thumbs through photos with a Global News crew, in his room.
“My mother got an awful lot of glass in her back, and she was very badly injured. I got some through the head. But I wasn’t tall enough. If I was a little taller, I probably wouldn’t be here.”
His sense of adventure undiminished, Snair’s next close call came at age four, when he fell off a Halifax pier.
Snair laughs as he explained how he was rescued by a fisherman: “He went and fished me out with a boat hook.”
After nearly drowning in a leaky rowboat at age 13, Snair found himself at the centre of another historic accident.
In 1942, he and his wife survived the crash of two war-time trains in Almonte, Ontario, that killed 36 others. The couple emerged, uninjured.
“The only thing that happened is I broke the crystal in my watch,” he chuckles.
A year later, a job he wanted on the Navy ship, HMCS Athabaskan, went to someone else.
“Later on, the ship got in a fight with some German ships, and it was sunk and he was lost. I might have been on there.”
Three decades as a drug researcher followed. So did car wrecks, a skiing accident, and skin cancer.
Over the years, he’s kept his trove of memories mostly to himself, content that he doesn’t need to understand why he survived calamities that claimed so many others.
“I don’t know. These are just things that happened, as far as I’m concerned. I know that some people think that perhaps somebody’s looking after me and all that sort of thing, but, no I don’t. This is just something that happened and I couldn’t, I had no control over.”
His daughter, Carol Theriault, marvels at his incredible life journey, and, his enduring strength. She notes Snair received a new hip three years ago, keeping him mobile for frequent walks.
Last May, he celebrated his 100th birthday by joining the Royal Canadian Legion.
His wife of 56 years, Thyra, has passed away. But, he endures, staying connected through social events at the retirement home and his love of a good book.
To those seeking longevity, he offers this advice: “Look after their health, for one thing. Make sure they’re eating the proper things. Getting lots of exercise.”