At 103 years young, Tony Previte has a century of experiences to share. Born in England, Tony grew up in the Surrey County region. His father was Director of Previte & Company which imported asphalt. “I remember riding by pony cart to meet my father who would be returning home from work in London.” He had a happy childhood … although he says did not like school.

“There was hope I would go to university, but I didn’t like school.” Tony did, however, with the influence of his mom taking him to the theatre, have a love of the arts. Accepted into the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, he was there for two years when WWII started. “I got my calling-up papers for the Army.” Tony was enlisted with the Royal Corps of Signals, and on his 21st birthday arrived in East Africa.

Trained as a Morse Code Operator he spent time in Nairobi between 1940 and 1942. He is very quick to downplay his role during the war, “I didn’t really see any action.” He remembers the Italians had all but surrendered. Appointed to the British Somaliland Camel Corps when it was refounded in 1941, Tony remembers the Italian prisoners had it very easy. “The numbers of Italian Solders captured and detained in the camps would seemingly grow overnight. The Italians would check themselves into the camp!” 

Tony recalls the heat from his time in Berbera, the capital of the Sahel region of Somaliland. One of his jobs was to record the temperature each day in a log book. One day he recorded a temperature of 125 degrees Fahrenheit, with a humidity of 95%. “We all wore shorts and a towel. It was hot and very uncomfortable!”

Following the war, and back in England, Tony returned to the stage with repertory theatre. His first acting job was Henley-on-Thames. Realizing he wasn’t going to make it as an actor, Tony switched career paths and was hired as a professional photographer for a company called Poly Photo, taking professional headshots.

Tony has two daughters, one of whom moved to British Columbia. In 1986, he was convinced to move to Canada to be closer to his grandchildren. Settling in Vancouver, Tony got a job at the Vancouver Academy of Music where he ran the gift shop, which was later downsized to a candy shop. A favourite with students and staff, Tony worked there until his retirement at 99 years old. 

Adored by staff and students at the Vancouver Academy of Music Tony served up smiles and sweets for over 32 years, retiring from the academy at 99 years old.

Tony moved to Salt Spring Island to live with his daughter and her family in 2019. “I do miss living there, but with my vision going I knew I need more care and it wasn’t fair to have them watch me all the time”. This past March, needing additional care for day-to-day living, Tony moved to Veterans Memorial Lodge. 

Tony and his great-granddaughter Rosie.

Like all Canadian veterans, Tony gave up so much so that we can enjoy the freedoms we have today, and now it’s our privilege to support them. You can help support veterans like Bob by making a donation today.

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