A BRIDGE TOO NEAR

Vet­eran cel­e­brates 101st birth­day with trip across Con­fed­er­a­tion Bridge

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - BY ALI­SON AULD

P.E.I. vet­eran cel­e­brates 101st birth­day with trip across Con­fed­er­a­tion Bridge

Ch­ester Banks’ eyes lit up as he gazed back at the red soil of his beloved Is­land home and ticked a mis­sion off his to-do list — cross­ing the Con­fed­er­a­tion Bridge for the first time on his 101st birth­day.

The P.E.I. na­tive cel­e­brated his birth­day Tues­day by travelling across the 13-kilo­me­tre fixed link, some­thing he had never done be­fore de­spite spend­ing his life in the small prov­ince.

“It was just out of this world — I’ve never seen any­thing like it be­fore!” Banks said in an in­ter­view from the Kens­ing­ton Com­mu­nity Care Home. “I had a won­der­ful day.”

Banks was given the chance af­ter staff at the home asked last year if there was any­thing he hadn’t yet done in his long life.

Carol Evans, the ac­tiv­ity di­rec­tor at the home, said he men­tioned the bridge cross­ing as they were talk­ing about trans­porta­tion and the horse and buggy he used to ride on. At that point, she and other staff started think­ing about putting to­gether a spe­cial day for Banks, who has lived at the home for at least four years and is from the Souris area.

She said that on Tues­day, one of his rel­a­tives ar­rived to get him ready for his ad­ven­ture from Bor­den-Car­leton, P.E.I., to New Brunswick.

She said it was ex­tra spe­cial since the for­mer light­house keeper and farmer hadn’t been out­side of the com­plex in about a year.

“First, his grand­son came, dressed him up to the nines — a felt hat, the whole nine yards — and a limo pulled in at one o’clock and he went across the bridge,” she said with a laugh.

“And a woman with him said his eyes were as wide open as he could get them! And see­ing po­tato fields in blos­som for the first time in a long time and con­struc­tion people wav­ing at him as he passed by — he just couldn’t take his eyes off the road! He en­joyed it so much.”

She said the stretch limo car­ried the group past yel­low fields of canola, over the bridge and onto the other side, where they

stopped to look at the struc­ture from the un­der­side.

The Sec­ond World War vet­eran ad­mit­ted that he wasn’t a fan of the en­gi­neer­ing marvel when con­struc­tion be­gan more than 20 years ago.

Banks, who served as a chef in the mil­i­tary, said he watched the steel be­ing bolted to­gether for the span, but feared it might bring un­wanted change to the “quiet Is­land.”

“They were al­ways say­ing that if you built a bridge, there’d be all these wild fel­las com­ing across to the Is­land, but it didn’t work out that way,” he said with a chuckle. “Ev­ery­one was talk­ing about it, that it’d be too bad

if they spoiled it, but it turned out good.”

He con­cedes that he’s now had a change of heart.

Evans said when Banks re­turned to the home un­der po­lice es­cort, res­i­dents and staff cel­e­brated with a cake and bal­loons, while Kens­ing­ton po­lice made him an hon­orary con­sta­ble.

“They said with this badge if he ever has to go to jail, they’d let him out!” she said. “That made him smile!”

When asked what he might want to do for his 102nd birth­day, Banks laughed and said it was a bit too soon to start plan­ning that.

“It was just out of this world — I’ve never seen any­thing like it be­fore! I had a won­der­ful day.” Ch­ester Banks

CINDY-LOU ADAMS/VIA CP/SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Ch­ester Banks is pleased to have ticked a mis­sion off his to-do list — cross­ing the Con­fed­er­a­tion Bridge for the first time on his 101st birth­day. Af­ter the trip, he cel­e­brated with cake and bal­loons.

CINDY-LOU ADAMS/VIA CP/SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Ch­ester Banks sits in a limo in Bor­den-Car­leton, near the Con­fed­er­a­tion Bridge. The Souris na­tive cel­e­brated his birth­day Tues­day by travelling across the 13-kilo­me­tre fixed link, some­thing he had never done be­fore de­spite spend­ing his life in this prov­ince.

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