Stan Fryer doesn’t plan to slow down any time soon.
The long-time community volunteer – still phenomenally active in his 95th year – was honoured Sept. 21, in a Zoom call meeting, by the board of the Peace Arch Hospice Society, who presented him with a lifetime membership in the society for his 26 years of volunteer work with the organization and in the broader community.
That includes years as a volunteer and facilitator with the local Alzheimer’s Support Group. It was only natural for him to be involved with the group, he said – his wife Shirley, who passed in 2017, had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s some 16 years earlier.
The recent honour was “very unexpected,” Fryer said. And while much appreciated, he noted, the kudos have never been the motivator for his volunteering.
“The thing about a lifetime membership,” he quipped to Peace Arch News, “is that I’m going to have to live a lot longer to get the value of it.”
But Fryer doesn’t seem to need any lessons about getting the full value out of life.
“I keep pretty active,” he said – an understatement if there ever was one.
His weekly schedule includes teaching pickleball (he’s been a participant in the sport for 18 years), golfing twice a week and line dancing twice a week, in addition to his volunteer activities and being available to advise and help others with their challenges in life.
“It’s amazing how much you learn about life when your spouse goes through something like this,” Fryer – formerly chaplain at White Rock Hospital and business manager at Trinity Western University – said.
He and Shirley had been married for more than 50 years before her diagnosis, and they retained a cherished closeness even as her memory diminished to the point where she could not recall events and incidents that had just occurred (he and Shirley were the subject a short film, Before She’s Gone, made in 2016 by their grandson Arun and featured in the 2017 Vancouver Short Film Festival).
“People would remark about how much patience I had,” he said. “I’d tell them, ‘I don’t have patience, I have love.’”
Fryer, who has also shared his experiences through TEDTalks, said he takes advantage of every opportunity to educate people about Alzheimer’s and share what families of Alzheimer’s patients go through.
“The worst thing you can ever do is ask a question of an Alzheimer’s patient – it puts them on the spot, gives them stress,” Fryer said. “It’s one thing I tried to keep out of Shirley’s life – stress is probably the worst thing for Alzheimer’s patients.”
Sports and physical activity are great stress reducers in his own life, he believes.
He notes that on Sept.15 he played a round of golf with one of his grandsons and a great-grandson – who were born only one year apart (in all he has four children, 12 grandchildren – 24 if you count the spouses, he said – and 16 great grandchildren).
“That was the thrill of my life – a game like that doesn’t happen very often,” he said. “And I beat both of them. They’re challenging me to another game next year.”
His vigor in competition is well known in the community – particularly among fellow pickleball players. “I’m playing against people who are in their 70s,” he noted.
Also a keen dancer, he’s taken ballroom lessons and is an in-demand dance partner – in non-COVID times – on cruises.
The well-travelled Fryer is particularly fond of river cruises, which he has taken across the U.S. and Europe – including some that have passed through Amsterdam, Budapest and Vienna.
He also did a great deal of travelling with the Billy Graham during a 10-year period, from 1984, when he served as Western Canadian representative for the late evangelist.
“That was an incredible experience,” he said. “I think I travelled to every state in the U.S.”
He also knows White Rock history better than most – he’s been a resident here since 1936, when he was 10 years old.
“There have been incredible changes since then. I remember, as children, we used to dive for pennies off the end of White Rock pier. You could look straight down in the ocean and see them – you couldn’t do that now.”
Accepted by the Canadian Navy as a 17-year-old volunteer in 1943, he was kept out of the service by doctors who discovered, when he was sent for further training, that he only has three fingers on his left hand.
As a UBC business student he also had the distinction of driving the last horse-drawn milk cart in Vancouver – delivering early in the morning on a route in the then-genteel West End in 1950.
“It was great job, because Shirley and I had married in 1948 and had our first child in 1950 – it meant I could provide for them and still go to university.”