Wyman Betts is not your average centenarian.
While many his age are just happy to be alive, Betts, ‘Bun’ to his friends and family, continues to live life to the fullest. And it hasn’t gone unrecognized by his community.
Betts, who turned 100 on Aug. 15, was feted during a massive birthday party at the Wentworth Recreation Centre on Aug. 18 - a party that included letters from numerous provincial and federal dignitaries such as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and even Queen Elizabeth II (something she only does for those turning 100).
“It’s pretty good, pretty special,” said Betts. “I wasn’t sure how many would come, but there are quite a few here. There probably would’ve been a lot more bikers here if the weather were a little better.”
Betts is believed to be the oldest active motorcyclist on the continent. And he continues to hit the open road on a regular basis to see the countryside on two wheels.
“I was going to ride the bike here today, but one of my nephews talked me out of it,” he laughed. “I had the bike all prepared, the helmet was on, I had the key and was ready to go. I thought everyone would want me to come on the bike. He drove in the yard, saw me and suggested with the rain it probably wouldn’t be a good idea.”
Betts said there’s no secret to his longevity.
“I think it’s doing what you want, when you want and enjoying life,” he said.
His partner of 30 years, Jean Wood, said Betts’ longevity has a lot to do with who he is.
“He’s lived as long as he had just by being the kind of man he is,” she said. “He’s a wonderful man and he’s been that way all his life. I’ve known him since I was 18.”
His nephew, Gilbert, said the turnout is a tribute to his legacy in the Wentworth area.
“It’s a legacy to his 100 years, that’s for sure,” he said. “We’re astounded by it.”
Gilbert said Betts has had a huge impact on the community, including the lumber industry when he ran the family sawmill that employed a lot of people in the area. During the offseason from lumbering, he spent much of his time at Ski Wentworth.
He was also a pilot and a talented woodworker.
“My dad was in the military and when we came home in the summertime, my first stop was always the mill,” said Gilbert, who lives in Brookfield. “He was always there and put in as much time as anyone there. He has always had a great sense of humour and never had an unkind word for anyone. He’s the type of guy everyone likes and I sort of hope I get that same gene pool when it comes to longevity.”
Bob Betts, who is also a nephew living in Halifax, said his late father was Bun’s older brother. He remembers skiing with Bun and spending time at the sawmill with his father and Bun.
“I was there every day growing up,” he said. “When I was a kid I remember going down to his house and watching him in his workshop. I also remember him at the ski hill. When I’d get off the bus, I would head to the hill and do several runs and Bun was always there. He has always been a special uncle to us.”
Dave Betts, another nephew who travelled to the birthday party from Ottawa, said his uncle is part of the history of Wentworth.
“He’s the history. Our family ran A.T. Betts and Sons Lumber Ltd, which was a business here for many years. It was my grandfather and my two uncles,” he said. “I like to think that Bun was one of the statesmen of Wentworth. When you live to a hundred, you tend to know a lot of people.”
While everyone knows Bun Betts the biker, Dave Wilson said he played an integral role at Ski Wentworth.
“If it weren’t for him there probably would not have been a Ski Wentworth,” said the 90-year-old Wilson. “He was always there for us. Bun had a tractor at the mill and that carved a lot of the runs at the ski hill. If not for him, I don’t know what we would have done.”
Wilson’s daughter, Leslie who now runs the popular ski hill, said Betts’ legacy lives on in the employee of the year award – an award he won himself several years ago when he came out of retirement.
“He had a long history with Ski Wentworth. It’s a testament to his integrity and dedication to the ski area,” she said, adding Betts built the first lodge at the hill and there’s a challenging ski run named after him called ‘Bun’s Bumps.’ “When I was little, I would go into the repair shop and Bun and Jean were like extended family. They’d feed us lunch. Bun was always there growing up.”