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Creston veteran shares life experience

After service, William Constable went on to become a teacher

William (Bill) Constable, now 98 years old, has spent most of his life in the Creston Valley.

In 1924, he was born in Alice Siding, a small community between Wynndel and Creston.

“When I went to school, there was just one teacher who taught 10 grades in two rooms,” he said.

After school, he went straight into military service with the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1943. From a lifelong love of aviation, he wanted to be a pilot. He grew up hearing stories about the Spirit of St. Louis and building model airplanes.

Once he completed exams in Nelson, Constable spent three years training for Coastal Command, meant to hunt for submarines and protect convoys.

His training never came to fruition, as he was dismissed when the Second World War ended in 1945. After travelling across Canada for his training, Constable returned home to make a life in Creston.

He took his first job at a hardware store on Main Street, where he met his future wife, Nancy. She was renting an apartment above the store across the street, which was only heated by a wood stove. Constable’s coworker sent him over to bring her two sacks of coal, and as they say, the rest is history.

Married in 1949, they had three children together - Greg, Guy, and Andrea - and five grandchildren.

After 12 frustrating years of sorting nails, Constable decided to make a career change to education. He was inspired by his wife, who had been teaching in the coal mining community of Natal in the Elk Valley before her move to Creston.

In 1957, he went to the University of Victoria. Nancy eventually decided to join him to finish her own courses. For the journey, they packed up their station wagon to the roof with three kids, a babysitter, and a dog. After six years of courses and summer school in Victoria, they both completed their degrees.

“I ended up winning a scholarship and being in the top eight out of a class of 70,” said Constable.

He taught his first class of 39 kids at Creston Elementary School.

“I had one troublesome kid who was the bane of my existence,” laughed Constable. “In less than 10 minutes at recess, he could have gotten every group of girls and boys fighting over something. I figured he’d be one of the smartest criminals in Canada.”

Luckily that didn’t scare him off, and Constable went on to have a successful teaching career with several positions at different schools. He later became district staff, in charge of sharing library books and resource materials between schools.

Over the years, Constable and his wife enjoyed travelling together. In 1975, they rented a car and spent 33 days in the former Soviet Union with the Canadian flag in the rear window.

“We were mobbed because my wife could speak Ukrainian, and Russian was similar enough that she could talk to people.They treated us just royally,” said Constable.

Also in their travels through Europe, they spent three months teaching English at a university in Czechoslovakia and golfing together.

At age 62, they both retired and bought a truck and fifth-wheel for more adventuring. The couple shared 68 years of marriage before Nancy’s death in 2017.

The secret to their happiness was sharing the family roles and constantly working on their relationship, said Constable.

“When it was report card time and she was going nuts, I’d cook supper and look after the kids,” he said. “And when it was the end of the year and I was going crazy collecting resource materials from the schools, she’d do my work by cutting the lawn.”

“With any relationship, you got to work at it if you’re going to be happy,” he said.

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Kelsey Yates

About the Author: Kelsey Yates

Kelsey Yates has had a lifelong passion for newspapers and storytelling. Originally from Alberta, she graduated from SAIT Polytechnic's journalism program in 2016.
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