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James Jackson photo

James Jackson photo

Twin brothers Donald (left) of Kitchener and Oscar Duke cut the cake as friends and family gathered last week for an early 100th birthday celebration. More than 170 people are expected to attend another party, being held today.

Happy 100th birthday, twice

Waterloo Region twins seeing double for 100 years

By James Jackson
For the Post

Oscar and Donald Duke are proof that when it comes to living a good life, it’s not the mileage but the memories along the way that matter.

The twin brothers proved that point last Friday morning at the Waterloo Memorial Recreation Centre when, surrounded by nearly 100 of their friends and family, they cut a slice out of their 100th birthday cake.

“I’m 100. I can’t believe I’m 100,” said Donald in a speech to the crowd. “Age is only a number.”

They were born in India on Dec. 26, 1912 and, after a 25-year career as an engineer with the British army, Donald moved to Kitchener in 1966. Oscar, also an engineer, followed him to the region a few years later and still calls Kitchener home.

In 1972, Donald moved to a home on Twin Oaks Crescent in Waterloo, where he still lives to this day.

“We have had a good life in Canada,” said Donald, who is five minutes older than Oscar.

They are among the oldest twins in the world — the current record holders turned 103 last month — and have learned many lessons throughout their lives.

While serving during the Second World War, Donald travelled throughout the Middle East and saw many different cultures, religions and people.

The ongoing conflicts in that part of the world sadden him, and he said everyone wants the same thing in life — a roof over their head, enough food for their children and a good life to live.

“There’s good everywhere,” he said. “There are no bad people.”

The brothers served in different divisions with the army but managed to meet once while on leave at an Allied base in Baghdad. They spent 10 days together touring the city’s ancient sites.

The twins had a third brother, George, who was captured by the Japanese but managed to survive. Donald said the conflict had a profound impact on his life.

“In war, you’re always saying, ‘When is it my time?’ War is a terrible thing. I hate to think about it.

“You learn a lot. You learn to adapt.”

Before leaving for the war, Donald’s wife Patricia gave him a prayer and a small photo of her and their newborn son. She told him she would read the poem several times a day, and if he read it whenever he had a chance, odds were some day they would read it at the same time and he would return home safely.

They are just two of nine children and, despite being born the same year the Titanic was launched, Donald has done a remarkable job of keeping up with the times.

He still lives independently at home and recently bought a new Toyota Camry.

He visits his brother, who lives near Deer Ridge, every week for lunch. He even has his own iPad and uses it to talk regularly with family members overseas.

“Is that a surprise? I don’t see it as a surprise,” he said with a smile. “You’ve got to change with the times. Change is good.

“If you don’t change, you’re lost.”

Donald also walks about four kilometres every day at the track around the ice at the Waterloo Memorial Recreation Complex. His wife asked him to start walking just before she died of cancer two years ago.

“He is an inspiration to all the walkers,” said Linda Cleasby, a member of the walking club, during the party.

Their celebrations will continue Dec. 26 at the Waterloo Inn where more than 170 family members are expected to attend. Oscar has two children and three grandchildren, while Donald’s side of the family spans five generations.

The question on everyone’s mind was their trick to a long life. And Donald — a devout Roman Catholic — was more than happy to answer.

“It’s prayer,” he said, telling the audience he has lived his life according to three simple words — God is love.

“It doesn’t matter what religion you are, as long as you follow those three words.”

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