Dr. George Allen never set out to be 100.
“It just kind of crept up on me,” he says. “I wasn’t aware of it at all. But I don’t want to die. They’ll cut off my old age pension.”
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The jokes never stop when you’re with the semi-retired Baptist minister.
“Laughter is the best medicine,” he says. “And it’s cheaper. I’ve got a pill over there costs $123. I don’t know if it does any good. I just take it to humour the doctor.
“A man asked me once how come I always look so good. I’m always neat, always have a tie on. I told him Brill Cream, Barbasol and Dr. Buckley’s.”
Dr. Allen moved into Crosskill Court, a seniors home in Bridgetown, two years ago.
“This is assisted living, partial care down here,” he says. “Upstairs they get complete care. I might need that when I’m 120.”
The supposedly retired minister still leads church services for the people in his home and still leads them in sing songs.
“It’s nice to cheer them up, anyway you can,” he says. “Music is the language of the soul. It’s powerful stuff. We sing the old songs and the hymns of the church.”
He’s quick to point out though that he likes all kinds of music.
“Even country,” he says with a twinkle in his eye. “I tell everybody it’s not as bad as it sounds.”
Laughter and music are two big pillars of Dr. Allen’s ministry. The main pillar, he says, is love.
“My son David said it best,” he recalls, a tear coming to his eye. “Last year at my ninety-ninth birthday party.
“He said, ‘The secret of my Dad’s success can be summed up in a word: Love.
“‘Dad loved everybody. Love just oozes out of him.’”
“And I do,” says Dr. Allen. “I love the people. Because Christ first loved me. Love Christ with all your heart and your neighbour. That’s the secret to Christ’s kind of religion. The greatest of all commandments.”
Dr. Allen delivered that message to a lot of people and a lot of congregations in his 72-year career.
He says he felt called to the ministry his whole life. He was born and grew up in North Sydney. He asked for “believer’s baptism” when he was 10.
He studied theology at Acadia University. Even then he was preaching “here and there and everywhere—Black River, Greenfield, the Tabernacle in Wolfville.”
During his time at Acadia he made his first trip to Clementsvale to work with youth. There he met June.
They were married in the fall of 1940 in Clementsvale, when she had finished her studies.
He had already started earlier that year in his first official posting—Mahone Bay.
He served six churches there–Mahone Bay, North West, Indian Point, Upper Cornwall, New Cornwall and Hermans Island.
Sitting in the front pew in Mahone Bay was a retired dean of Theology from Acadia, Dr. Simeon Spidle, taking notes on Dr. Allen’s sermons.
He visited Dr. Allen on Mondays to discuss the sermon.
“Talk about pressure,” says Dr. Allen. “I learned a lot from him; he had a very logical mind. Taught me about preaching logically so people could understand it.”
Dr. Allen never read his sermons from notes.
“I couldn’t read my own writing,” he says. “You’re freer. You stand there and look at the people, look them right in the eye. Make sure they’re not sleeping.”
He says it takes harder studying before hand.
“You have to think lots about it. Build it up logically, three points – you’ll lose them if you travel all over everywhere.
“My sermon changes when I get up there though. You might have written one thing down, but the Lord gives me different things to say than I started with. He puts words in your mouth, you never thought you were going to say.”
After six years in Mahone Bay he went back to school and then on to Upper Canard and then Truro where they stayed for 16 years.
In Truro they had to build a new church to fit everyone in.
“They were sitting on the steps out into the alley way,” he says. “The new one seated 400. Time was when women wore hats and it was like looking out on a flower garden, a sea of flowers.”
Next he served in Dartmouth on Stevens Road and then Bridgetown where he served for 15 years.
He says he often gets asked how he managed to stay so long in places.
“When I wanted to leave, I stayed and when the congregation wanted me to leave, I still stayed.”
Then seriously he says ministers used to visit more than they do today.
“I was a real pastoral minister – I visited every home three or four times a year,” he says. “They used to say a home-going minister makes a church-going congregation. I wish I had a 100 more years to do it all again.”
He finally retired in 1984, when he was 72, when his mother-in-law fell ill. They moving home to Clementsvale for her last days but she died before they got there.
Still he and June lived in Clementsvale together for 25 years until her death almost two years ago.
“I miss her awful bad,” he says. “Seventy years together. Everything you do you think of her.
“I couldn’t have done what I have done without her. She was a wonderful helper, partner, wife. She worked as hard as I did.”
Dr. Allen continued preaching even in his retirement. He supplied in Clementsvale, Digby, Digby Neck – here there and everywhere, same as when he started.
People came from all across the province last week to celebrate Dr. Allen’s hundredth birthday.
“That’s not old is it?” he asks. “I always thought old was 15 years older than I am.
“But I always believed this:
“If you stop looking ahead, if all hope is gone, if you’re only looking back, you are old. But if from life you take the best, and if in life you keep the zest, No matter how the years go by, no matter how the birthdays fly, You are not old.”
The congregations of the Bridgetown, Centrelea and West Dalhousie Baptist Churches had a special service to honour Dr. Allen on Sunday, March 17. The Order of Good Cheer held a party with 120 guests for Dr. Allen in Nictaux on Wednesday, March 20. And many more showed up at Crosskill Court on his actual birthday on Thursday, March 21.
All four children, David, Paul, Mary (McLeod) and John made it for the party.
“The Lord has been awful good to me all through my hundred years,” said Dr. Allen. “He gave me a wonderful wife, four beautiful children, six grand children. God gave me wonderful churches, wonderful congregations, wonderful people to work with. What more could a fellow ask for?”