Over the years, Joe Lang may not have done it all, but certainly, he’s come closer than most.
Lang worked and lived on his farm near Gadsby for more than 60 years, but his journey also took him to a lumber camp in Blind River, Ont., a building contractor in Sudbury, and a couple of coal mines near Edmonton.
For 17 years, he and his wife Lorraine drove local kids to and from school. Lang also ran a service station for more than 30 years.
A talented musician on the accordion and drums, Lang was a fixture with the Simon’s Orchestra for decades. At age 58, he took a correspondence course, and after passing his exam, he became a licensed piano tuner.
Lang — who turns 100 on Wednesday, Nov. 12 — said that hard work was something that sustained him through the years, when asked to name his secret to longevity.
“I don’t know if there’s a secret,” he said. “I did a lot of hard work in my younger days. That kept me going.”
Lang’s family and friends celebrated his centennial with a come-and-go party on Saturday, Nov. 8, drawing upwards of 200 people to the Stettler Royal Canadian Legion hall for the event.
Heather Lang, his daughter- in-law, said they were expecting between 130 and 150 guests for supper. The party attracted visitors from out of province, including several from Joe’s home province of Saskatchewan.
In addition to photos on display, congratulatory letters and certificates were received from Drumheller-Stettler MLA Rick Strankman, Crowfoot MP Kevin Sorenson, Premier Jim Prentice, Lt.-Gov. Donald Ethell, Stettler mayor Dick Richards, Gov.-Gen. Daniel Johnston, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and Queen Elizabeth II.
Lang sat at the front of the hall, receiving a steady stream of well-wishers. Desserts, appetizers and drinks were served, including a three-part cake shaped like the number 100.
His oldest grandchild, Paula Stenland, served as emcee for the afternoon’s program, which included greetings from Lang’s three sons, Deral, Duane and Dwight.
“If you don’t know which of us is having the 100th birthday, he’s the guy over there with the black hair,” said Deral, grinning along with his silver-haired brothers.
Deral thanked everyone in attendance for coming to the party and noted that his father had just renewed his driver’s license, joking, “I hope he sticks around long enough to drive us three home tonight.”
Grandson Rob Lang read a quick history of Joe’s life, while Reeve Wayne Nixon brought greetings on behalf of the County of Stettler and presented a letter of congratulations and a plaque marking the milestone birthday.
Sheila Heighington presented her grandfather, a devoted Blue Jays fan, with a team jersey with the name “Lang” and the number 100 on the back. A letter of congratulations was received from the team’s president and CEO, Paul Beeston.
A group of musicians — including Terry and Joan Rushton, and Dale and Debbie Simon — also serenaded him, adapting the words of the 1919 song “Let the Rest of the World Go By” in tribute to him.
Joe joined them on stage at his old drum kit to perform four songs, maintaining a steady beat as his former bandmates played.
The fourth of ten children born to John and Elizabeth Lang, Joe was born on their farm north of Revenue, Sask., on Nov. 12, 1914. He attended school at Usselman and Princeton, moving on after finishing Grade 9.
He worked on the family farm and, later, for other area farmers until 1937, when he and his brothers ventured out to Ontario in a 1923 Ford Model T. After working for a lumber camp at Sudbury and a contractor in Sudbury, he returned home the next fall to help with the harvest.
He came to Alberta in the spring of 1941 to seek work in a coal mine. He met his future wife, Lorraine Matier, while playing at a dance, and they were married July 16, 1942 in Edmonton.
After a couple of mining jobs and other work, the Langs moved to the Westwoods area, renting the Mark Edgell farm in 1943.
Three years later, he bought John McKay’s farm at what was known as King’s Corner (now known as Lang’s Corner). He also kept busy with custom combining and operating the gas pumps, known as “Joe’s Service,” from 1947 to 1978.
A new barn was built on the Lang farm in 1962. Joe and Lorraine would remain on the farm until 2007, when they purchased a condo at Stettler’s Heartland Heritage Villas. They moved to Paragon Place in 2010; Lorraine passed away in February 2011 at the age of 91.
Lang’s family includes his three sons, seven grandchildren, 18 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild.