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Mahone Bay native celebrates 100th birthday

Dennis Zwicker enjoys a 100th birthday moment with grandson Jonathan Stevens (back), sister Eleda Zwicker (left), great-grandsons Joseph and Stuart Stevens, and sister Deborah Zwicker.
Dennis Zwicker enjoys a 100th birthday moment with grandson Jonathan Stevens (back), sister Eleda Zwicker (left), great-grandsons Joseph and Stuart Stevens, and sister Deborah Zwicker. - Peter Simpson

Seeing a century

Dennis Zwicker was born in Mahone Bay on May 22, 1919.

A month after Zwicker entered the world, the leaders of the Allied Nations signed the Treaty of Versailles, formally ending the First World War.

During his 100-year life journey, Zwicker has witnessed the introduction of many innovations now considered commonplace, including aerosol cans, ballpoint pens, microwave ovens, and credit cards.

“When I think about what one hundred years look like, what life was like in Mahone Bay in 1919, and what Dennis has seen during his life, it’s amazing,” said Jonathan Stevens, Zwicker’s grandson.

As an adult, Zwicker moved to Brownsville, Texas, where he became an American citizen and lived for many years. He joined the United States Merchant Marine as an engineer, serving overseas during the Second World War, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

“Dennis travelled all over the world – Asia, Africa, Middle East, India, Europe, you name it. And he had the foresight to bring home antiques, paintings, and art from those places,” said Stevens.

Zwicker named his home Landau, after the German town where his family emigrated from before settling in Canada in the 1700s.

“We grew up with this Indiana Jones-style grandfather who had swords, spears, carvings, Persian rugs, grandfather clocks, and old history and Shakespeare books. He had an interesting story to go along with every item," recalled Stevens, who grew up in his grandfather's home alongside his brothers.

Zwicker retired in the late 1960s and moved back to Mahone Bay, where he bought a house two doors down from the house where he and sisters Eleda Zwicker, 98, and Deborah Zwicker, 92, were born, and where Eleda still lives. Both sisters never married.

“Dennis has no biological children. He joined our family when he married my dad’s mother. He raised my brothers and me as his own, telling us that we were his chance to have children,” he said.

Zwicker’s extended family includes 11 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren.

When Zwicker’s first wife, Katherine, who was Stevens’ grandmother, passed away, he was alone for a decade until he met then married Hazel DeLong.

“Hazel was head seamstress at Suttles and Seawinds in Mahone Bay. Dennis and Hazel had a wonderful life together until she passed away three years ago, on their seventeenth wedding anniversary,” said Stevens.

What's the secret to a long life?

“The key to Dennis’ longevity is that he surrounds himself with people he cares about and who care for him,” said Stevens. “And he loves to laugh and have fun. He enjoyed going to Las Vegas to see the shows and have a good time. He wants to go back again, but that’s probably not in the cards.”

Stevens said his grandfather is not a big sports guy, but he enjoys politics and, because he spent so much time travelling, is interested in world affairs.

“Family and friends are his biggest interests.”

Fittingly, about 100 people attended Zwicker’s 100th birthday party at Ridgewood Assisted Living in Bridgewater, where the dapper and handsome centenarian now resides.

Zwicker received written congratulatory messages from Governor General Julie Payette, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Nova Scotia Lt.-Gov. Arthur LeBlanc, Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil and Lunenburg West MLA Mark Furey.

The official recognition letter from Queen Elizabeth II is apparently on its way to Zwicker.

The governor general’s thoughtful message to Zwicker included a reference to her time in space.

“Over your lifetime, you have had unique experiences and met some remarkable people. You have witnessed the great moments in our history and seen Canada come of age as a country. You have lived through a period of incredible change and even seen the dawn of the Space Age," she wrote.

“The life you have lived, the valuable lessons that only time can reveal, deserve to be shared with all those around you. May this very special day be filled with happiness and create new memories for years to come.”

peter_simpson@hotmail.com

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