Arthur Anderson has sat at his post every November for decades, distributing poppies for a simple reason — "I do it for the fellas that never came back."
The 99-year-old veteran of the Second World War served in the Air Force and survived being shot down and spending months in a German prisoner of war camp. When he sees someone wearing a poppy leading up to Remembrance Day, he said it shows that people honour the sacrifice of his friends and comrades who died.
"It means they care."
The distinctive red flowers are being distributed at locations across Canada to raise funds to support veterans.
For the past few years, Anderson has been volunteering with the campaign outside of the Real Canadian Superstore on Dougall Avenue.
Regulars bring coffee and $50 bills
He's become such a fixture there he now has regulars, according to his son Russ.
"He has people that come looking for him every year and they bring more and more," he said, adding some even donate $50 bills or bring him hot coffee, black, just the way he likes it.
As his father has aged, Russ said the family has had conversations about whether a man who has lived almost a full century should be spending hours volunteering, but Anderson isn't interested in taking a year off.
"He wouldn't like it," said Russ. "He's uplifted because people are so generous."
Part of what makes his father's approach so special is his sharp memories of the war, he added.
"It's part of his life he'll never forget," explained Russ. "It's just like getting married … you know everything about your wife and he knows everything that happened to him and his comrades."
'We met an angel'
Anderson said he was shot down during Operation Market Garden, an Allied attempt to take all the bridges through to the Rhine River in western Germany.
"We met an angel," he said, describing the Dutch man who fed him and his some of his crew members while they hid in a hole for two months.
Then they made a break back towards the Allied lines across the river.
"Some people really appreciate what we did and that feels nice." - Arthur Anderson, Second World War veteran
"I ran into a couple of Jerries who were on patrol and that was the end for me," he recalled. "I spent the rest of the war in a prisoner of war camp."
As the Russians closed in and Germany began to fall, Anderson said the guards emptied the camp and forced him and an estimated 1,200 other prisoners to walk towards Berlin for months.
"That was a difficult time," he said. "There was very little food and we were on the road for six or seven weeks."
Poppies remind him why they fought
Eventually the Russians caught up, and liberated Anderson, who returned to Canada where he worked as a printer for newspapers in Windsor and Detroit and raised a family.
During the war he lost the sight in one of his eyes and suffered a back injury after a "pretty good jab" from a guard "changed his spine a little bit," but overall, he said he's OK.
If you want to pick up a poppy from Arthur he’ll be at the Dougall Superstore until 1. pic.twitter.com/1dbC1mY255— @StaceyJReports
Seeing people with poppies reminds him what he and his friends were fighting for.
"It's wonderful," he said. "Some people really appreciate what we did and that feels nice."