To look at his face, watch him hopping across the floor, or observe him working in the flower beds at Royal Terrace, no one would ever believe this small statured man has just turned 100.
Always the educator, Maurice Audet just wants to help other people be it learning, experiencing life, or assisting citizens less fortunate than himself.
Born in Montreal, English was his second language, but behind that were others with which he could converse: Chinese, Japanese, Latin, and Italian. Spanish and Portuguese were learned from tapes after he retired. Speaking a country’s native tongue certainly made travelling easier as he and his wife Betty could stray from the regular pre-planned tours and branch out on their own exploring areas not available to the regular tourist. Knowing the language was also a boon when bartering with unsuspecting street vendors.
Audet learned enough basic Thai to order food and transportation. Both French and Chinese were useful in Thailand.
Recalling their travels Betty states one of the strangest uses of language was while holidaying in New Zealand, an English speaking country. There they had a Japanese doctor, Chinese in a restaurant, Italian to a lady on the bus, Japanese to one set of tourists, Spanish to rescue some lost tourists, and Latin when researching documents, Maurice loves to dress up – Hallowe’en, Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s – he has a costume for each holiday. He loves to laugh and make others laugh with him. That’s what makes him such a successful “Volunteer Visitor” for seniors and shut-ins – he dresses for the occasion and role-plays to elicit a smile from his client. Audet has been known to get positive responses from hospital chronic or palliative care patients when not even family or medical staff was able to do so.
Even in his every day attire the dapper Maurice usually has a dress shirt and beaded necklace from the stock of jewelry the couple used to fashion as a hobby.
Audet’s volunteer career started after landing in a Japanese prison camp during the war. He wasn’t actually in the military, but because he had a British passport he found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was one of the youngest in the camp and helped to look after the rest because there were no doctors or nurses. This is where he learned how important it was to care for others.
Married in mid-life, Maurice and Betty were thrilled to have son Richard. At age 97, when most men are great, or great-great-grandfathers, Maurice became “grandfather” for the first time. Richard, Shawna and Sebastian live in British Columbia, but thanks to “Skype” they can keep in touch with the senior Audet’s on a daily basis.
When Betty was incapacitated following hip surgery, Maurice fell into the role of maid – and still carries out these chores as the two share household duties. Even when they enter their Palmerston apartment complex – Maurice bustles down the long hall and upstairs while Betty, who’s slower with her cane, goes the shorter way. Always the gentleman, and because of his speed, Maurice can be at the apartment door and have it open by the time Betty arrives.
The Audet’s first met at the Old Vic theatre in London England – not as actors but as educators behind the scenes. History, live theatre, geography and language are their favorite topics. Working with High School acting students led him to realize how badly live entertainment was needed. He founded drama clubs, and organized several Drama Festivals. He was president of the French drama organizations and a national vice-president.
Volunteering became paramount to living after Audet retired from high school teaching. He started with the Palmerston Senior Citizens and through this became president of USCO (United Senior Citizens of Ontario). As a Field Representative he maintained contact with 14 clubs from Arthur to Lucknow for nine years.
Maurice was one of the founding members of the North Wellington Seniors Council and was thus actively involved as a Hospice visitor, Volunteer Driver and Visitor, Meals on Wheels delivery….the list is as impressive and endless as his work with seniors.
Maurice Audet has received many awards, citations, and recognitions for his volunteer services over the past 4 decades but it can be summed up with the huge medal he sports so proudly – the VON Award for Excellence, a national recognition to a Canadian whose pioneering spirit, commitment and lifetime of volunteering has contributed to the well being of his fellow citizens.
Maurice and Betty travelled to New Brunswick to be presented with this award in 2005.
Audet is a “hat” man, wears his trademark fedora when he goes out, and never misses an opportunity to construct a head ring of any handy materials when he’s visiting or entertaining. With the first few cards he received for his 100th birthday he made himself yet another hat, and jauntily struts around the apartment with a grin as he points to the strip that reads “Seniors who volunteer regularly do live longer happier lives, and they do make a difference in the lives of others”.
Maurice recently had surgery and a pacemaker inserted. That will likely just increase his enthusiasm for helping others.
Friends and relatives took the opportunity to thank Maurice, renew friendships with the family, and rejoice in his longevity at a Come and Go afternoon at the Palmerston United Church on his actual birthdate of Saturday May 18th.
Unselfish as always, his current interest is helping orphans in other parts of the world. It was asked rather than cards or gifts for his birthday that donations be made to help this cause.
On behalf of the Rural Route magazine, congratulations Maurice on an exciting and rewarding 100 years.