Second World War veteran and seasonal Merritt resident George Wright celebrated his 90th birthday last weekend at the Quilchena Hotel, and to add to that milestone, he even had a biography published.

His wife Marilyn wrote the book, which chronicles her husband’s life. It begins with his teenage years in Edmonton to his service as a rear gunner in the RCAF. Although originally intended to focus solely on his time in the Second World War, the book also covers Wright’s life after the war as an air traffic controller, being married twice, retiring and moving to Saskatchewan to be a farmer and his battle with colon, bladder and kidney cancer as an elderly man.

The book is titled 9 Lives and 90 Years, named for the close calls with death Wright has experienced in his life. He even had a close call when he had a paper route in Edmonton.

The idea to write the biography came when one of George’s grandsons asked him about his time in the war.

He had a school project regarding how people cope with crisis and chose to profile his grandfather.

That sparked the conversation of how George did in fact cope with war, Marilyn said.

Drinking and smoking were commonplace, and when more people he and his fellow soldiers knew were killed they drank more, she said.

“When he came back, he was a totally different person,” Marilyn said. “This book is about coping with crisis and changing your life, and George did completely change his life at least three times.”

In the war, George completed over 200 runs as a rear gunner, was part of a platoon that launched gliders behind enemy lines and flew covert operations at night to supply resistance cells around Europe.

George had several brushes with death during the Second World War, but was never wounded.

“It wasn’t real,” George said about his experience in the war, noting it all simply felt like part of a job. He said he and his fellow soldiers got desensitized to the horrors of war. Something like having your plane shot at felt routine, he said.

His stories were never intended to go from school project to book.

Marilyn has written and published books on George’s mother and her own grandmother in the past, but it was George who had the idea to turn his stories into a book.

The research process for this book was interesting, she said, because most of it was George’s recollection of events.

“Easiest research I’ve ever done,” Marilyn said.

The book was written as non-fiction and made to be as accurate as George can remember, Marilyn said. They also used George’s log book from the war as well. Other details came from a British military website.

Marilyn said she would read back George’s stories to him until he’d tell her the story sounded exactly like being there.

She said the book was written primarily for George’s family.

“The kids really should’ve had these stories a long time ago,” Marilyn said.

She has recently published a first print of 500 copies of the book, with an additional print of 500 coming in the spring.

Although written mainly for family, Marilyn said they are still selling the book to anyone who wants a copy.

“That book is good,” George said, noting it’s good to have the finished product.

George and Marilyn live about six months every year in Saskatchewan, but spend their winters in Merritt as George has a sister who lives in nearby Logan Lake. This will be the seventh winter they’ve spent here.