Living a simple and quiet life while being deeply involved in the community is Peter Mayr’s ideal retirement and the life he’s lived for the better part of two decades now.
Visitors of the 108 Heritage Site ought to know Mayr by face, if not by name, as the kind-hearted and friendly gardener who keeps the grounds tidy and offers German tours of the area. His bearded and careworn face can often appear stern but will quickly break into a warm toothy smile when you sit down and talk with him one on one.
Mayr was born in Bavaria, Germany 76 years ago this July growing up close to the Alps in a little town called Murnau which he describes as a beautiful area filled with lakes. Mayr currently lives in 105 Mile House with his two dogs and first emigrated to Canada 16 years ago with his family who has since spread out everywhere across B.C.
“I emigrated because too many people, with Germany there is over 80-million people and Canada is four and a half times bigger than Germany with 34-million people, it’s crazy,” Mayr said. “I like it here it’s quiet and not too many people, it’s a totally different lifestyle than in Germany.”
He first got a taste of Canada 30 years ago when he came to Canada on vacation after befriending a man from 108 Mile Ranch named Heinz Weigelt at a hunting competition in Germany. Mayr went on to visit him every two years for a decade or so to go fishing and hunting in the bush together before eventually choosing to move here full time.
The community is what Mayr is really drawn to as he finds it much more laid back and polite than German culture, citing an incident in Germany a few years back, he returns there for medical check-ups from his doctor and dentist once a year, when while grocery shopping a woman behind him pushed him with her cart saying “go, old man, go.” This atmosphere of stress isn’t present in Canada which is why he’s come to love the community.
In Germany Mayr owned a construction company for 40 years and said that when he retired he never thought that he’d still be working at 75 but has found he needs to keep busy in the intervening years. Prior to becoming a director of the 100 Mile House and District Historical Society nine years ago and later the caretaker of the site, Mayr worked for a few years as a park operator for B.C. Parks though he said he stopped due to the amount of driving around the job involved.
Mayr took over when their previous gardener passed away five years ago and he was asked to take on the tasks of cutting the lawn, mending fences and other basic maintenance, in addition to providing his signature German tours. He’ll enjoy telling the history of the area for up to an hour while showing tourists around the buildings and at the end will often get $40 to $50 in donations for the site.
“The girls will say ‘how did you do it, how did you get $50?’ and I’ll say it’s my charm,” Mayr laughed. “People like it when you don’t go through it like a machine, bum bum bum.”
While he’s getting paid for taking care of the site’s grounds, he still puts in a lot more time to volunteer.
Outside of his work for the historical society, Mayr also volunteers with the 100 Mile House Age Friendly group, helps out at the Loaves and Fishes program through his church and is a member of the 100 Mile House Lions Club for eight years now. Mayr also does a lot of cooking for the various clubs in the community as necessary.
“Even in Germany, I was a part of maybe 50 different clubs but I did not have the time to do something, I just paid the fee because I had a company with 80 employees and had no time for such things,” Mayr said. “I always wanted to do it and now I have the opportunity and it’s nice, especially at the [Loaves and Fishes]. People are so thankful when you help people and give out things.”
The tricky thing about volunteering these days he said, however, is that many clubs and organizations in 100 Mile are running out of volunteers. Many of the people who have been volunteering are having to stop due to their age and many of the young people who might replace them have other things on their mind, Mayr said.
Mayr said often groups he’s involved with are unable to do certain things because of this lack of people so he and other volunteers are always looking for new people to get involved and help bring some of these ideas to fruition. Some of these groups, like the Lions club, are in pretty good shape with around 35 members but others like the Rotary Club of 100 Mile House which has under 10 members he’s worried they’ll have to shut down someday.
When asked about his advice for the secret to enjoying life in old age, Mayr was happy to answer.
“My advice would be that everybody only has one life and you should live your life your way,” Mayr said, adding that treating people as you would want to be treated is always important which is why he’s always friendly and kind to others.
In the coming year, Mayr hopes to stay healthy, active and enjoy being a grandfather which he became last year. While his children are far away and his wives have either passed on or separated from him, Mayr is ultimately happy with his life.
“To end the whole story, yes, I live alone but I am not alone, I don’t feel alone,” Mayr said.