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Duncan-born twins still together after 90 years

Duncan-born Vera Chown and Victor Gibson turned 90 last week, and are possibly Duncan’s oldest fraternal twins. Here, they celebrate at Cairnsmore Place. - Peter W. Rusland
Duncan-born Vera Chown and Victor Gibson turned 90 last week, and are possibly Duncan’s oldest fraternal twins. Here, they celebrate at Cairnsmore Place.
— image credit: Peter W. Rusland

One thing hasn't changed much in the past 90 years as Vera Chown and Victor Gibson became what's likely Duncan's eldest set of fraternal twins.

"Mom being the oldest, always took Vic's hand — and even today, she's the mothering person," Linda Robson says of her mother born on Feb. 12, 1923 — just before Vic's birth on Feb. 13 at Lime's Nursing Home, which formerly sat at Trunk Road and the original Island Highway, Vera explained.

She and Vic also still like cake, such as the one they sliced into Friday at Cairnsmore Place, where Vic now happily lives.

Vic said he feels great at 90, and has "no secret" to longevity. But Vera said being born in the right era, plus eating wholesome foods, played a role in their long lives.

"We were brought up at the right time. All our vegetables came from our garden; meat came from the butcher shop. We never used pesticides — everything we ate was good."

Some grub also came from stores at Duncan's now-demolished Chinatown.

"We got fish and vegetables there, and they came around to homes," said Vera. "We also took our shoes to Chinatown to have new soles put on."

Their bygone life saw folks take a full day to brave the rough Malahat road to Victoria. But even after serving in the war, Vic and Vera couldn't wait to get back to Cowichan.

"It's as good here as you can expect," said Vic, who became a petty officer in the Canadian Navy, and served in the dangerous, chilly North Atlantic.

"I don't think you can find a better place," added Vera, who was a sergeant in the Royal Canadian Air Force, serving in Winnipeg, Ottawa and Toronto. "I believe Duncan had more people join the service than any other place Canada, per population."

Some recruits — including her husband, Leslie – used Duncan's former Agricultural Hall beside the Mound.

Les Chown, she explained, raced ashore on Normandy's Juno beach during D-Day 1944 where "he was wounded; blown up by a mine."

But Les just couldn't wait to get back to his fighting unit, she said of the "wicked war" that claimed "all those young guys."

Vera also remembered her British-born parents, Lily and Tom, sending her the Cowichan Leader while she was serving.

Tom drove a bus in Cowichan after the war, but he almost never made it to Canada after his navy ship was torpedoed in 1916. Miraculously, Tom returned to his native Newcastle, then later reached Canada.

"I joined the services because of dad," said Vera.

After the war, Vic resumed his trade as a stonemason. He worked at the Crofton mill while raising two kids that gave him a grandson. Vera had two daughters who produced three grandchildren. Eventually six grandkids arrived.

While the twins stayed close, neither could recollect having intuition that the other was in danger.

"Not that I know of," said Vera. "Maybe with identical twins."

Staying busy is the key to a happy, productive life in a place such as Cowichan, they agreed.

"I've never been bored," said Vera, who's active with the Cowichan District Hospital Auxilliary. "I've never had time."

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