October 18, 1931 – September 15, 2022
PER ARDUA AD ASTRA
(Through Adversity to the Stars)
Our father took his final flight on September 15, 2022, and asked us, Craig,his son; and Barbara, his daughter; to write about his life. It is very difficult to put his life and legacy into a few short pages. He was a wonderful father to us; a devoted and loving husband to our Mom Joyce, who was the love of his life for 67 years; a loving son to Donald and Evelyn; brother to Marlene and Elaine (Paul); uncle and grandfather. He was a man who deeply loved and served his country as a pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF).
Much of what we have written has been taken directly from the stories about his life that he wrote for us. We are grateful that he did so.
Dad’s family roots in Canada are deep. He was always proud of the fact that he was the fifth generation of a family who travelled to New Brunswick as Loyalists fleeing the war in what was to become the United States. He joined the RCAF in 1952 and, after he earned his pilot’s wings, was stationed at RCAF Station Claresholm, Alberta in 1954 as a flying instructor. Claresholm was the training base for the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan and trained pilots for the Korean War and NATO.
While stationed in Claresholm, he met the woman with whom he would spend the rest of his life — Joyce Vert. Mom was also an officer in the RCAF and worked in the administrative section on the Base. Mom sawDad one evening at a Christmas event. This was his first Christmas away from home and he was standing by the piano looking lonely. The tall, handsome pilot and beautiful female officer fell in love, and they married on September 2, 1955. Their love, which Dad described as “unconditional, unrelenting and unbroken” continued right through to the end of this life. We know their love will continue forever and to the stars.
Dad was transferred several times over the course of his long and distinguished career. He flew with Ferry Flight out of Lincoln Park, Calgary and told us many stories about flying or ferrying aircraft in those days without modern equipment. In December 1959, a call came out to bring back a damaged C-47 (also known as a DC-3 or Dakota) from Canada’s UN mission in El Arish, Egypt. The ground personnel there had missed the cargo door, accidentally driving two forks of a forklift through the fuselage below the cargo door. The Dakota was not operational and had been patched so that it was considered airworthy, at least for the ferry crew, to fly back to Canada. Dad was one of the only pilots qualified on the C-47 and was chosen to pick up and fly the damaged aircraft back to Canada.
This was the worst time to cross the Atlantic due to weather but nonetheless, the crew was assembled, and Dad took off on December 5 onroute to Egypt. After stops in Nfld., the Azores, England, Gibraltar, and France, he picked up the damaged aircraft and, after refuelling stops in Iceland, Greenland, and Iqaluit, he successfully returned the damaged C-47 to Canada in time to spend Christmas with us. Dad described having a “deep in the soul” emotional reunion with his “three most-loved-ones” when he came home. We remember those reunions. Our Mom would drive us to the hangar, often late at night, to pick up Dad. We knew that he always had a present in his suitcase for us and was happy to be home with his family.
In 1962 Dad was transferred to Summerside, P.E.I. as crew commander of the 415 Squadron (the Swordfish Squadron) and flew the Argus, an anti-submarine aircraft. That was the year the Cuban Missile Crisis occurred. The U.S. and Canada cooperated in establishing an effective barrier on the Atlantic that ran from the south-eastern tip of Newfoundland to a point near the Azores Islands. The Argus had the long-range capability to patrol the outer reaches of the Atlantic to detect and deter any “enemy” submarines that were inside the barrier.
The Argus was equipped with torpedoes and depth sounders. As the crew commander on those flights, the decision to launch an attack, should theyencounter a submarine, rested with Dad. They were long flights. Once they reached “station,” the patrol time alone was twelve hours, and it took four hours to fly each way from Summerside. In sixteen days, Dad and his crew flew seven twenty-hour flights over the Atlantic with limited to no radio contact available.
The submarines had the advantage and could launch missiles in six minutes from the time the submarine surfaced. This was a time during which the possibility of a nuclear war was very real, and Dad carried with him the solitary and heavy weight of knowing an attack could lead to armed worldwide conflict. Fortunately, and to the relief of the world, the crisis was resolved and there never was a need to deploy weapons.
Life settled down and over several years Dad was transferred to Borden, Winnipeg, Edmonton and, finally, to the Department of National Defence in Ottawa. There, he was promoted to Lt. Colonel.
In the early 1980’s, Dad was immensely proud to pin Canadian Air Force pilot wings on his son Craig. Together they flew a Tracker out of Comox and that father-son flight was a moment Dad always remembered with great pride.
Following his retirement from the military, Dad became the Director for Recruiting and Selection for the Canadian Forces. He continued to servehis country well until he retired and moved to the Comox Valley with our Mom.
Dad loved nature and instilled that love in us. We have many wonderful memories of our time as children and then adults at the Camp; a cottagenear Woodstock, N.B., built by Dad’s grandfather and father. Dad loved those times there, as did his father. So did we. Dad took us out on the lake in a rowboat, showed us a secret path to a spring to get drinking water and taught us to appreciate the sounds of chickadees, bull frogs and loons. Those were magical days. The Camp is still a place that all our family treasures, as intended by the legacy passed on by Dad’s grandfather.
Dad was a quiet, thoughtful, modest man with a philosophical bent, but always had a wonderful dry sense of humour and wit. His superior intellect was evident when asked anything about history, philosophy, geography, sports, weather, or the politics of the day.
He was deeply devoted to Canada. After flying an Argus in an airshow during Canada’s centennial year, he was moved to tears with pride and emotion when the Anthem was played by a large orchestra led by thelegendary Howard Cable.
Dad always carried himself with dignity, particularly when wearing the uniform of the Canadian Armed Forces. His training as an officer and pilotincluded expectations about conduct and deportment. As an officer, hewas expected to wear a jacket when he left the Base in Claresholm. On one occasion, all the officers were told by the visiting Chief of Air Staff that they should always have $100 in their pockets which, at that time, was about one months’ pay. While the latter did not happen, Dad always conducted himself in the manner expected of an Officer and a Gentleman.
Dad wrote that looking back throughout his flying career, there were times when he faced the possibility of death and always believed that “some entity or power” looked after him.
That belief has carried him through challenging times and the RCAF motto aptly describes his courage as he prepared for his last flight in this life: Per Ardua Ad Astra. He exemplified this motto throughout his life, and we take strength in knowing that his last flight will take him to the stars where loved ones were there to greet him, and that we will be reunited again.
It is often said that life is too short. It really is, especially, as our Mom says, when you are at the short end.
Dad’s years with us have gone by too quickly, but we, his family and friends, are grateful for every moment with him. He was a remarkable man,and his legacy is his lasting impact on all our lives and his selfless contribution to his country.
Non Solum Ad Partem Ultra: We Part to Meet Again.
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