Nfld. & Labrador

War veteran, outdoorsman, railway engineer Lloyd Seaward turns 100

What do you get when you turn 100? Lloyd Seaward got more than a dozen speeches, a song, and a chance to reflect on a long life.

Seaward worked on steam engines, learned Japanese as prisoner of war in WW II

Centenarian Lloyd Seaward said he did not initially want to wear his war medals to his 100th birthday party this week in Bishop's Falls, saying it felt like "showing off." Above his shoulder hangs a photo of HMS Exeter, which he served on. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

Lloyd Seaward has quit a lot of jobs.

He was a steam-engine stoker, a contractor, a fisherman, a navy seaman and a railway engineer — to name just a few.

They just tells me I'm 100. That's all I knows.- Lloyd Seaward

He quit so much that his friends and colleagues once called him "The Quitter," he said.

"When I would be on on the job for so long, and get to the best part of it, then I wanted to move on to this other one," he said.

"Engineer with the railway, and I quit that! My, people couldn't understand that. There had to be something wrong with your head." 

But that was just his nature. He was restless — always moving up, always "getting further ahead." He got a chance to look back over all of that this week, when he celebrated his 100th birthday with friends and family. 

Lloyd Seaward poses for photos while cutting his birthday cake at the Salvation Army church in Bishop's Falls on Oct. 3. Seaward was born in Clarenville in 1917, and moved to Bishop's Falls. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

"He's always interested in learning something new, always interested in other people's stories and talking to other people. He just always feels there's some unfinished business," remarked his son, Gerald Seaward.

'I'm not leaving me friends'

It was that very instinct, Lloyd Seaward says, that got him into trouble in the Second World War, when he was serving in the British Navy.

At 22, he quit his job on the Newfoundland railway to join the navy and served overseas.

"When the war got started then, I got anxious to go," he said. "Listening to what the German [army] was doing to the Poles."

He finished his training, got on his ship, and started laying mines around the coast of France, he remembers. And when he was injured, and doctors attempted to discharge him, he refused to go home.

"I said no, I'm not going home … I'm not leaving me friends." 

Eventually he was "fixed up," and sent on HMS Exeter to the Pacific, after the Japanese military bombed Pearl Harbour in December 1941.

The following February, he was onboard the Exeter when it was sunk in the Battle of the Java Sea. He and his crew were taken as prisoners of war by the Japanese army, until their eventual release in 1945.

The HMS Exeter was sunk in 1942 during a battle with the Japanese military. Seaward says after his crewmates were ordered to abandon shift, the captain of the Japanese ship which picked them up "treated us good," giving the crew food. (US Naval History and Heritage Command)

"I went in there weighing 150 pounds, and when I come out I was 78. You see you never got a three-course meal every day," he said.

Seaward describes his internment as terrifying, with bombs going off overhead, and prisoners subjected to random punishment. His life got a little bit better when he was spotted by a Japanese commander making clogs out of old car tire.

He convinced the soldier he was a shoemaker, and for that, he was transferred the Makasura internment camp in Indonesia.

"That helped me a lot."

From steam engines to steam ships 

Before his life in the navy — where stayed an extra two years after the end of the war — Seaward worked as a fireman on the Newfoundland railway.

He's one of few who remember the steam engines well.

"Put that engine on that turnable without brakes … that was something you had to learn. That's talent!"

He was following in the footsteps of his father, himself an foreman on the railway. And when he finished his time in the British navy, he returned to work on the railway, even if it took him a few years.

First, he went to New York City, then Buffalo, and then Toronto — where he married his wife, Margaret — before finally returning to Newfoundland. His father had been told he was presumed dead in the Battle of the Java Sea, but he wasn't feeling any rush.

"I don't know, I didn't get homesick," he said. "I wasn't worrying too much, truthfully, who thought [what], or where I was to, or nothing."

He spent the next 11 years working as an engineer at the Newfoundland and CN Railway. He quit that job, somewhat unceremoniously, when he was asked to return to work on the train runs.

"I told him never call me again."

Following his release from a prisoner of war camp, Lloyd Seaward stayed with the British navy for two years. He worked in London and on an aircraft carrier, which was eventually damaged in a hurricane in 1946, he said. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

"He's hard to slow down, I'll tell you that," added Don Pelley, who estimates he's been friends with Seaward for 64 years.

"In all the years that I've known him there's one speed, and that's flat out."

Love for the great outdoors

Lloyd Seaward went trapping for his first time when he was 15, with his uncle.

He spent months at a time living in canvas tents, fishing and trapping in the area around Gander Lake — before much of Gander itself was built.

Of all the memories he has collected over the past 100 years, those stand out.

"I [went] over there in September and come out in spring," he said. His idea of a "good time."

Lloyd Seaward was the centre of attention on Wednesday night at the Salvation Army Church in Bishop's Falls. Several noted they could no longer sing "We hope you live to be one hundred," having already met the mark. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

He still keeps some of that outdoor spirit with him, living at a retirement home in Grand Falls-Windsor.

"I goes outside, I walks an awful lot here … back and forth, and then I go outside in the fresh air."

Lloyd Seaward sitting on the shoreline on a canoe trip. Seaward studied Beothuck canoe making practices by photographing a model at a museum in England. He built many of his own canoes for his children. (Submitted by Helen Stuckless)

Pelley and Seaward used to make trips up the Exploits River to places where the Beothuck Indians once lived.

"He'd still be there," Pelley said. "The spirit is willing, but the body is weak. He'd still be there with me now if he could do it."

Tips for a long life

Seaward attributes some of his longevity to faithfully following the advice of his doctors — eventually.

It was fairly easy for him to give up drinking, some decades ago. But it took a bit more coaxing to give away the cigarettes.

"He told me to cut back, and I started smoking nighttime! So when I went back to him I got some chewing up, I guarantee. He just told me how stupid I was."

Many years ago, after being told to retire and take it easy, he and his wife Margaret started travelling.

Lloyd Seaward and Margaret Lenora Seaward were married for 70 years, until her death in March. Their son, Gerald, attributes the longevity to a deep sense of family and commitment. (Submitted by Helen Stuckless)

"They told me, 'Don't go anywhere, you're going to drop any minute.' I think we travelled all over Europe after that!" he said.

Margaret Seaward died in March, at 94. They were married for almost 70 years, and had three children, along with numerous grand-children and great-grand children.

He's always interested in learning something new, always interested in other people's stories and talking to other people.- Gerald Seaward, son

Seaward turned 100 on Oct. 3. Margaret would have turned 95 the following day, which would also have been their 70th wedding anniversary.

For their son, Gerald, it's a bit bittersweet not having his mother there to celebrate what would have been a remarkable week.

"They both had a tremendous commitment to family," he said.

Lloyd Seaward, middle, along with his family and Grand Falls-Windsor councillor Darren Finn. Seaward was presented a congratulatory note and card from Grand Falls-Windsor's town council for his 100 birthday. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

On his 100th birthday, Seaward says he feels no different.

"They just tells me I'm 100, that's all I knows. No different whatsoever when they told me I was 70," he said.

"When I went down [to breakfast] this morning, all the people they greeted me pretty good. They told me they was glad I was still around."


Garrett Barry


Garrett Barry is a CBC reporter based in Gander, N.L.