I’ll start off by saying that Gary doesn’t like to talk about himself but he is very proud to speak of his lovely wife Dot. Gary is a great guy and has been married to this lovely lady for 51 years. They are parents of three, grandparents to five, and now, a great-grandparents. As we sat and talked about Dot and her family, I was able to find out more about their service in the RCAF in the post war years.
I first met Gary in 2012 when I started volunteering on Fridays for our Newsletter “On Proud Wings”. I discovered rather quickly that Gary is a detail person, a trait that served him well as an Avionics’ Technician during his RCAF service. (Thanks to Gary the blurb on the home page of the website correctly identifies the ejection seat as coming from a CF-101 Voodo0, not from an F-18 as I had mistakenly labelled it.)
Gary served in France from 1961-65. When I asked Gary if he had joined out of duty or desire, he bluntly stated that he joined
because he needed a job. But he was young and the opportunity to travel made joining the forcesworthwhile. Dot and her twin sister, Marion, encouraged by their mother, joined the Forces in 1959. Both of them wanted to become nurses and their mother had seen a recruiting advertisement that promised medical training in return for service.
In 1962, as a Med A, Dot was posted to Grostenquin, France where she met the man with whom she was to spend the next 50 years. Gary had spent the day with his friends waiting to hear the broadcast of the 1962 Grey Cup from Toronto,the game that became infamous for being called due to fog.The Fog Bowl, as it became known, was indirectly responsible for their meeting at the dance later that evening. “At least”, as Gary recounts with a twinkle in his eye, “that’s what Dot tells me happened”.
They married in April of 1963. Neither side of the family made it to the wedding, but they had plenty of friends to stand for them, many of whom, like Gary’s best man (who recently celebrated his 80th birthday), and Dot’s bridesmaid, are still in contact.
Dot left the service in Oct of 1963, and prepared for the birth of their first child. After Grostequin, they were posted to RCAF AFB Marville, France where their first daughter Gail was born in May 1964, followed by Lynn in July 1965. A posting to Edmonton followed in 1966, but Dot, expecting their third child,Karen, went home to Summerland, BC to stay with her family while Gary went on to serve in El Arish, Egypt as part of the UN detachment.
After the tour, Gary was able to go back to Summerland to reconnect with his family and to meet his new eight month old daughter, Karen, born in November 1966. “After that”, Gary smiled,” we figured out what caused them and that was the end of that.”
They returned to Edmonton, where Gary served until 1975 when they were posted to Comox. They spent the rest of Gary’s military career at 19 Wing (then CFB Comox). From 1975 to 1979, Gary was a member of 409 Sqn, where he worked on the Voodoo’s and T-Birds. He then moved over to 407 Sqn in 1980 where he did Tech Training and serviced the Auroras. From 1981 to his release in June of 1984, he was part of VU 33.
Gary may have retired in 1984, but he didn’t stop working. When his friend, Carl, started up a business on Anderton Rd, C and N Motors, (now Western One Rentals), Gary became the service and parts manager for the local business.
He is very active in his church and has volunteered at CAFM for the last 5 years, greeting visitors, giving tours, and helping to maintain the Heritage Air Park.
Thanks Gary, for sharing these stories with me and Happy 51st Anniversary to you and Dot! Find Gary at the museum on Tuesdays and Fridays. If you’re lucky there might be cookies! He bakes the most fantastic butterscotch cookies. If Val Wilson is the Cupcake Lady then Gary is certainly the Cookie Guy!