Alex Currie has no regrets.
“I had my day in the sun,” says the 95 year-old, bright-eyed, chatty man who has lived in The Dalles since 1953 and made his mark as a businessman willing to take chances.
Born in Scotland, Currie was raised in Montreal, Canada, and grew up fast. At just 13 years old, he took over his father’s business. “I had to do do it,” he says of the retail shop he managed. “There was no one else who could.”
When WWII erupted, Currie served in the Royal Canadian Air Force from 1940 to 1945. He was stationed in a small village in England, taking gun fire and working, among many things, as a courier. “I was running miles every day,” he recalls. “I wore out shoes.”
After the war years, Currie and his wife moved to the Pacific Northwest. His wife, a nurse, went to work at Skyline Hospital in White Salmon, and the couple made their home in The Dalles.
Currie was known as a businessman who tried new things. He opened the city’s first Dairy Queen, and introduced the first Sears store to the The Dalles. “Before, people had to go all the way to Portland and Vancouver,” he says. “We needed a local store to place orders.”
Currie, widowed and long retired, looks back at his life with satisfaction. He and his wife traveled all over the U.S. and Canada, and enjoyed experiencing different places and meeting new people.
“I achieved all my goals before I was 30,” he says, “I owned a Cadillac. I had $100,000 in the bank, and I lived in a big house, a nice brick house.”
What’s the secret to a long life? Keeping active, it seems. Currie has played golf since he was in his 20s — that’s 70 years! — and has earned an honorary membership to The Dalles Country Club. He was still hitting the green up until last year when his golfing partner could no longer play.
This spring, Currie took a tumble, but even that didn’t keep him down. Instead, he applied his usual determination to recovery. At Columbia Basin Care, a long-term care and rehabilitation facility in The Dalles, he took part in a physical therapy program that focused on regaining strength and balance so he could return to his home.
“He wanted to spend his last years at home, to live independently, and we worked to help him reach his goal,” explains Maureen Busby, who heads the therapy department at Columbia Basin Care. The facility’s team of on-site therapists provide physical, occupational and speech rehabilitation.
Recovery takes place both indoors and out. The light and roomy therapy area contains a variety of exercise tools and equipment, and the city’s only Omni VR, a virtual reality system similar to Wii. The tool engages patients in games designed to enhance balance, strength and cognition. “It’s especially good for those in wheelchairs. It offers excellent mobility training,” says Busby.
Outdoors, the expansive courtyard features a variety of pathways to mirror home life and everyday situations, such as a stone walkway, steps, a ramp, and even a putting green.
“Because he was so active,” says Busby, “Alex was able to regain his strength, his balance improved, and he was able to return home.”
Any other tips for longevity?
“Clean living,” advises Currie, though he admits a bit of whiskey doesn’t hurt.