Meet a Community Elder: John Ferguson

John Ferguson first climbed the CN Tower’s 1,776 steps in 2018 when he was 85, and has repeated the challenge five times since.

March 16, 2024 | | Over the Next Hill

Wellness enthusiast and inveterate walker, 90-year-old John Ferguson currently walks an average of 10 kilometres a day over two or three outings. But “it’s not unusual for me to hike to Orton and back,” he says about the approximately 16-kilometre round trip from his Hillsburgh home. He has been tracking his daily treks since he bought his first mobile phone in 2016.

In 2018, a friend suggested he try a CN Tower Climb. For the uninitiated, there are 144 flights to conquer during the climb up Canada’s tallest landmark, which translates into 1,776 steps. Group climbs are held regularly in support of the United Way and the World Wildlife Fund.

John did the climb twice that first year, in 27:50 and in 29 minutes, and repeated the accomplishment twice again in 2019. Covid disrupted his plans for the next few years, but he was back at it twice again in 2023. He has averaged 29:09 per climb over the six events.

John Ferguson first climbed the CN Tower’s 1,776 steps in 2018 when he was 85. He has repeated the challenge five times since. Photo by Pete Paterson.

Born in Oshawa, the first in a family of five boys, John worked at GM for a few years, during which time he became a licensed pilot with 30 hours’ training, the total requirement back then. (Today, commercial pilot training entails a minimum of 80 hours ground-school and 200 flight hours.)

He joined the RCAF in 1955 for an 11-year stint, married, fathered two children, Derek and Linda, and served across the country at bases in Cold Lake, North Bay, Bagotville and Gander.

In 1966 the family moved to Toronto, where he joined Air Canada as a pilot. When he retired, he and his wife relocated to Calgary, enjoying the outdoor hiking offered by the close proximity to the Rockies, and even doing some heli-hiking.

John has lived in Hillsburgh since 2014, close to both children, and intends to take on the tower climb as long as his health allows.

“Derek, who’s now 62, did it with me twice last year, and says he’s game again,” John says. They’re scheduled to participate in the WWF Climb for Nature on April 20.

John’s good health and positive attitude have allowed him to continue to challenge himself but he has no inclination to be tethered to the rail of the 553-metre-high tower and hang over the city, an option for those who make it to the top.

About the Author More by Gail Grant

Gail Grant is a freelance writer who lives in Palgrave.

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