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“He really went to work when he retired”

The man on the left in the picture is the supposedly "retired" Peter Smith of Port Hawkesbury, Nova Scotia. Next to him is Urbain Awono, Minister of Health, Cameroon, and Jean Lavoie, Canadian High Commissioner to Cameroon. Peter had just delivered his eighth 40-foot container of donated used hospital equipment, sewing machines, clothing, books and other humanitarian goods for the people of that country.

Peter is a remarkable person - a self-made, very successful businessman with a fascinating life story that I will skim over quickly to get to the "containers" part, the part he enjoys talking about the most.

After spending five years in the RCAF, Peter began working on offshore oil drilling rigs, eventually becoming captain and rig manager looking after Petro-Canada's east coast drilling and international work.

He lived and worked in 16 different countries worldwide, 17 if you include Canada. Tired of being nomads, Peter and wife Sandy purchased Robinson Oil Company, a small heating oil distributor in Nova Scotia. Together they built it into the largest independent oil company in Nova Scotia, owning and operating 17 retail gas outlets and several home heat centres.

Peter and Sandy went up against giants like Irving Oil and others and won.

In 1996, at age 55, Peter heard the welcoming call of "Freedom 55" and decided to sell and retire. But unlike the TV ads showing retirees lying on a sunny, sandy beach enjoying the fruits of their labour, Peter took off his jacket, rolled up his sleeves and really went to work. This time it was volunteer work collecting any humanitarian supplies that he and the members of his Rotary club could beg, steal or borrow to send to the impoverished peoples of Africa. Three million dollars is his conservative estimate of the value of goods sent as of this writing. And to quote him: "Dick, we have only just begun." Peter Smith: he retired at 55 and went to work for good. He's another Canadian Achiever.

Read more about Peter Smith at

Next week, read the story of bright financial whiz kid.

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