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Oak Bay’s John Hillman Dies at 105, Leaves Legacy of Lasting Footprints

Oak Bay’s John Hillman Dies at 105, Leaves Legacy of Lasting Footprints
Oak Bay’s John Hillman Dies at 105, Leaves Legacy of Lasting Footprints

The 105-year-old made headlines for his philanthropic acts, raising money for Save the Children by walking laps around his Oak Bay courtyard.

A man who walked laps around his Oak Bay garden to raise money for global charity Save the Children is leaving behind a legacy of nearly half a million dollars so far.

John Hillman, 105, passed away peacefully in the early morning of Monday (July 8).

Inspired by the late Captain Tom Moore of England, who walked 100 laps of his garden and raised nearly $150,000 for charity, Hillman began fundraising for Save the Children in 2020 at the age of 101. That year, he walked 101 laps—over 10 consecutive days—of the courtyard of his home at Carlton House of Oak Bay.

For four years, the centenarian spent a few days in the spotlight, taking his walker outside and doing laps under the watchful eyes of fans to raise money. Hillman would do the first two laps in a friendly manner with a politician, police officer or other dignitary at his side, then set off at a somewhat more brisk pace (for someone in his 100s).

At the end he raised his glass and toasted his fans before going inside to rest.

Although he had moved to Veterans Memorial Lodge in Saanich in March to celebrate his 105th birthday, Hillman ran one final lap at Carlton House – a ceremonial end to an era.

“We are all so grateful to have known John and to have called him our friend. He lived an incredible life of service to others and to be able to help him do that was truly the honor of our lives,” said Jacqueline Prewett on behalf of Carlton House. “He will be missed by so many, but we know his legacy will live on through the lives he touched and the positive change he brought to the world.”

Hillman left the online donation platform open at bit.ly/johnhillman104 and as of July 9, the tally stood at nearly $469,000.

Hillman, a British veteran of World War II, was granted Canadian citizenship in an online ceremony in 2022.

Hillman joined the Royal Air Force in 1937 at the age of 17.

“I joined the Air Force because in 1937 there were no jobs for kids coming out of school,” he told the Oak Bay News in 2022.

When he failed to meet the pilot requirements, he was put in the tail and Hillman became a radio operator.

He remembers being sent to France in August 1939.

“We lost half the squadron when the Germans broke through,” he said. With their planes rendered unserviceable, he and 60 others had to get back to England as best they could.

Hillman received four medals in the Second World War, served in the RAF until 1949 and saw action in France, Britain, Africa and Italy. He served in Burma from 1944 until Japan officially surrendered the following year.

“I had an angel on every shoulder watching over me,” Hillman said. “I got shot at and bombed my whole service and I never had a scratch on it.”

John and Irene Hillman were married on December 27, 1941. Irene died in 2021 at the age of 100.