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65 years of friendship lives on in a Prince George man's workshop

A former principal of King George V school has gathered former students, teachers and parents of former students together every Friday for years.

Eight Prince George men who have known each other for as long as 65 years still get together once a week for coffee in Wil Wiens' workshop.

The common thread that binds them together is education in Prince George.

And the reason they're in the workshop? The pandemic drove them out of a coffee shop and the workshop was the only place they could all fit safely.

Wil Wiens, 92, is a former principal of King George V school, and he has gathered former students, teachers and parents of former students together every Friday at 10 a.m. for years.

Oddly enough, the group includes two teachers named Don Wilkins and when they first started working for SD 57 the bearded Don Wilkins, who was a teacher and counselor, got the spectacled teacher Don Wilkins’ cheque by mistake for a month.

“They were finally paying me what I was worth,” bearded Don deadpanned.

Spectacled Don smiled and nodded in agreement.

Greg Drozda, teacher, and Dr. Larry Merritt, who was a former student of Wil’s, were also on hand along with Doug Allen, a machinist, whose children were taught by bearded Don and who was taught by spectacled Don in the automotive shop at PGSS that sent him on his machinist career path.

Absent were teacher Gary Clements and Tom Ukonmaanaho, also a machinist, who worked with Doug at the same business and whose son was taught by bearded Don as well. Bearded Don even taught Wil’s children.

Larry, Doug and Gary have known each other since Grade 5 when Wil was their teacher.

“We played hockey together, we grew up together…” Doug said.

“I don’t know… did we grow up?” Larry asked Doug with mischief in his eyes.

They laughed.

The trio played hockey together and they’ve stayed connected off and on for their entire lives. Then during the last 10 years they’ve had coffee frequently and slowly the group grew until Wil brought them all together under his workshop roof.

Because what else can you do when there’s more than 50 years of shared history with the teachers and more than 65 years of shared history with his former students?

“And there are three things we never talk about,” Wil Wiens said.

And yes, you guessed it, the no-no topics are religion, politics and sex.

But they always find so much more to talk about and they are just happy to be together, they all agreed.

“We ask for advice and there are always a lot of answers to choose from,” Larry said.

Teacher Greg thought a serial killer board might be appropriate to get the connections straight to illustrate it best., where everyone’s picture is on a white board and then there’s string attached to whom is connected to whom.

“But that might end up being more of a mess than anything else,” Greg smiled.

The group agreed they will continue to meet for as long as they’re able.

“Wil makes the best coffee around, so we’ll keep coming back,” bearded Don said.