Lorne Figley, a Saskatchewan-born Second World War veteran and the world’s oldest working plumber, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, has died. He was 96.
“I’m thinking what a great life he had, what a great father he was and grandfather and great grandfather he was,” Don Figley, Lorne’s oldest son, said.
Lorne ran Broadway Heating, a plumbing and heating store, in Saskatoon since the 1950s.
Despite being well past retirement age, he kept the store open to keep busy and help others, according to his son.
“He likes to work. He likes to do things for other people,” Don said.
Don told Global News his father “made virtually no money” in the past 30 years because he helped people who couldn’t afford the components and repairs they needed.
“But he did a lot of work and had a lot of fun. A lot of his clients were his friends.”
Don attributed his father’s work ethic — social calls and family visits always involved fixing something — and generosity to his time growing up on a farm and living through the Great Depression.
Lorne was born in 1924 in Sanctuary, Sask., a hamlet about 185 kilometres southwest of Saskatoon.
He worked on a farm until he was old enough to enlist in 1942 — though his oldest son doubts his father waited that long.
“He went into the army when he was around 18. I think his age was pushing it a little bit,” Don said.
Lorne joined the Royal Canadian Air Force, eventually working with the No. 664 Air Observation Post Squadron of the British Royal Air Force.
According to a media guide published by Veterans’ Affairs Canada ahead of the 75th Anniversary of the Liberation of the Netherlands and Allied victory in Europe, pilots of the 664 were tasked with locating Nazi positions and radioing them back to Allied artillery.
It was Lorne’s job to update the security codes every day so the Germans couldn’t listen in.
He never let the equipment out of his sight, even putting a bed in the back of his truck so he could always keep watch.
The man from rural Saskatchewan spent the last months of the war in Germany and the Netherlands and was awarded several medals, but Don said his father rarely spoke about the war.
“He didn’t think it was something to brag about, it was just a job you did.”
After he returned to Canada, Lorne enrolled at Sask Polytechnic, entered the trades and became an apprentice. He opened Broadway Heating Ltd.
In 2015 the institute announced an award bearing Figley’s name for the student who receives the highest marks on their journeyman exam, across all trades.
He told Global News then that he had no plans to retire and intended to die with a pipe wrench in his hands.
He nearly did. He continued to work up until the end of August.
Speaking to Global News on Saturday after the funeral, Don said he, his siblings and all of Figley’s grandchildren were sad but are also very grateful for his life.
“He won the lottery — that’s an amazing life to have had,” Don said.
Lorne and Josephine Figley
“You’ve got to give it up some day so he got his money’s worth.”
Don said the fact that his father taught him to look on the bright side of things was helping his grief because he realized his father’s death also meant there would be a sort of reunion.
Lorne’s wife Josephine died several years before he did.
They’re now in the same urn — which is next to some of Lorne’s tools.
With files from David Giles