You are welcome to share any memories of John on this page. Send an email to Marty Howe.
So sorry to hear the news of John’s passing. I worked for John and Paddy from the fall of 1967 to the fall of 1972, starting the flying school, teaching, crop spraying and charter, before going to Air Canada. On the way, I taught Lorraine and Tom Howe to fly.
I hope the rest of the family is doing well and wish all the best for the future.
Captain Don Johnson
Retired National President
Air Canada Pilots Assoc.
St. Lazare, Quebec
It was always a pleasure to come and assist your dad this past year. It was always a great pleasure when he would greet me at the door with a nice warm smile. He was a kind hearted man who was gentle and calm. My condolence to the family, whom he was so blessed to have around him. Your special bond never went unnoticed. Blessings and prayers to all of you.
I was very saddened to hear of your Dad’s sudden death….he has visited my thoughts many times this past week and a half…..
Johnny was a wonderful person…. I always looked forward to the Christmas dinners together, especially knowing that I would enjoy a sustained and entertaining conversation with your dad…. He had a gift of putting one completely at ease, so natural he was….
His departure leaves yet another un-fillable hole in the Howe clan…. There is something very special about that ‘gang from Saskatchewan’….
It is so difficult to accept that someone as vital and as REAL as your dad has left this stage….i’m sure he is, right now, enjoying the next leg of his journey, chatting it up with his siblings, his parents and his old friends, occasionally looking down on us all, and modestly taking great pride and satisfaction in his grandchildren….
There’s a terrible finality about death….. fortunately for those of us left behind, we have a treasure-house of wonderful memories of Johnny and a life very well- lived….
Blessings on you, Alex , the kids, Dimitry & Marty,
Rae, Marty, Pat and Lorrie
Sometimes its only through looking back over many years that you realize which of the people you’ve met in your life had the biggest influence. Back in the days when we weren’t even teens yet “Rae’s dad the airplane man” was a magician. I got to go to those great birthday parties where everyone got a plane ride and we all got Cessna airplane cards. Later, it was John telling me I was nuts to even be thinking about gyrocopters.
Then eventually, flying lessons at Prairie with Tunnes; who also passed away recently.
I’ve had the flying bug for more than 50 years now… thanks to your dad and I’ll always remember him for that.
I was able to be in Nanaimo on Sunday April 1, 2012 to celebrate John’s life with his family and friends. It was an honor for me to share publicly a few of my fondest feelings about John, and Lorraine too. I want now only to repeat something that I expressed privately to Marty after the gathering. It is a truism that children and animals can sense sickness in a person, from the worst evil to pitiful weakness. What is less commonly acknowledged is that everyone – not just the innocent, all of us – know when we are in the presence of a healthy soul. John and Lorraine were good people down to their bone’s marrow. That is why we wanted to be around them. They were “attractive” in the deepest human way. I feel tremendously fortunate that I met them and I am also grateful to them for raising a wonderful daughter, one of my very best friends in the whole world.
Dear Lorrie, Pat, Marty and Rae,
Alex, Taylour and I would like to send our loving condolences to all
of you in the passing away of your dear father.
I have so many fond memories of Uncle Johnny, as I called him, dating
back to Regina, the ranch and Toronto gatherings at Lorrie and Alec’s,
in Nanaimo with my two boys and at my home. He was such a wonderful
storyteller and I loved hearing of his adventures as a young boy in
Manitoba helping his Dad with the cattle and being pursued by the
school authorities. I enjoy a special photo of him with my Mom in my
living room taken at one of her birthday parties.
He was a very special person and a beloved father, husband,
grandfather, uncle and citizen of the world.
We will be thinking of you tomorrow as you celebrate his extraordinary life.
With much love,
Lynn-Marie, Alex and Taylour
We’re so sorry to hear of the passing of your wonderful and dear father. We know how close the two of you were to each other. We’re also grateful to have known both him and your mother when they lived in your charming home in Regina.
These days are not easy ones for you and your family but rest assured that you did everything a son could do for a dad. Those years you spent in his service gently forged an unseen but powerful bond that most people in the world will never have with their parents.
Your father was a special man, with his RCAF missions in WWII, his pioneering of flight and flight school on the prairies, marriage to the love of his life, loving and close knit children and respect and love from all who met him. A man can’t do better than that as a legacy.
Now its time for him to go onto a new and easier journey where physical difficulties are gone and there is only acceptance, love, effortlessness and immersion into the Light of God.
God Bless your father and your dear family,
Please enjoy this poem that is special to all pilots but which is also a metaphor for the High Flight to God. Thinking of you and your family with our prayers and loving support,
Carolyn and David Grayson
High Flight By John Gillespie Magee
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, –and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of –Wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air…
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark or even eagle flew —
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
Hi Rae, Marty, Pat, + Lorrie,
With feelings of sadness I share these words, but it is fond memories that I recall in our Family visits to Regina and the Ranch. The one vivid memory, that I have, is Uncle Johny always making time for us while we were there visiting. The plane ride that he would take us on was like a dream come true for me. The houses and cars were so small down below, they were like toys. When he banked the plane for a turn, it was as if you were going to fall out and go crashing to the ground. The wind currents would bump us around, and I would wonder are we going to survive this? Every time, Uncle Johny would skillfully control the plane, and bring us back safely. He was a Hero in my mind! And Mom, Thelma Carefoot Mowat, was so proud of him along with All the Howe Brothers and Sisters. They are a Special Family and brought All of Us into this World too! Even though this is a sad time, please Enjoy and Treasure these Memories Together. Terri and I would have liked to been there with you, and our thougths are with you.
Cliff + Terri Carefoot
I have very fond memories of the many times we shared family holidays at Lake Isabella with John & Lorraine. Whether it was golfing or playing cribbage over cocktails, or just hanging out, I always enjoyed hanging around those two. Although time passes on the memories will always remain !
Sacred to the Memory of John L. Howe, who has departed this Life in the 89th year of his age. John is now with the Angels in Paradise!
Dear Lorrie, Rae, Marty & Pat,
I’m sure miss your dear Dad! He was one of the most important people in my life and I admired and respected him so much! And Uncle John never seemed to mind that I was his somewhat nutty old hippie nephew.
For many years I’ve phoned Uncle John on a regular basis and I always enjoyed it when he’d say to me: “Hold on a minute Dale! I’m gonna pour myself a drink!” Then we’d have the most interesting conversations. I really dug the timber of his rich voice and I was always fascinated by the way in which he could tell a story and bring it to life. I’m sure Uncle John would have been a great success on TV talk shows – what a raconteur!
After family dinners at my sister’s home, I’d head out to the front porch for a smoke. Uncle John would often follow me outside and he’d reach into my shirt pocket and announce: “I think I’ll have an O.P!” (Other Person’s Cigarette). I felt honoured that he’d help himself to one of my smokes – after all, he was the Chief of our Howe Clan! And more important, he was the most likable charismatic uncle one could ever imagine!
One of my most precious memories was attending your parents’ wedding back in 1949 when I was just six years old. I was awestruck by the beauty of my adorable new Aunt Lorraine attired in an exquisite wedding dress. Uncle John and Aunt Lorraine were the most romantic couple I’ve ever known! They must be Soulmates! And I really feel that they are now together again for Eternity!
With Love & Hugs,
Cousin Dale Martin
Dear Lorrie, Marty, Ray, Pat and the entire family.
Oma (Irene), Amala and I are sitting together this morning remembering our dear Johnny and we are flooded with his presence as if he were here with us this very moment. For me personally, I will never forget the support and love that Uncle Johnny and Auntie Lorraine gave us when we were first married. We were searching and questioning the meaning of life and the part we would play in it. Our meanderings would certainly be unconventional and probably gave pause and maybe even alarm to many of our relatives. It led us to many parts of both the United States and Canada. Everywhere we went our parents, Keith and Irene would come and visit and flood us with their love and support. There was someone else too who would come and visit and flood us with their love and support – Uncle Johnny and Auntie Lorraine. I remember them coming and staying with us in Berkeley, and willing to stay in a house that would . . . well let’s just say “rustic” comes to mind. It was the kind of affection we would never forget and held a special place in our heart all our life . I remember once in British Columbia when we were living in an old log cabin Uncle Johnny and Auntie Lorraine came to visit and insisted we come to Vancouver with them and they took us to a five star restaurant, and encouraged us to have a wonderful meal. We were far away from all family and friends and this act of kindness was so generous and loving. All through our married life I would call Uncle Johnny for financial advice. He was always so generous with his time. He had given me my first big “stock tip” that turned a few hundred dollars into a few thousand. It prompted me to start studying the financial markets and when I finally become a bond and stock broker with Birr Wilson I felt, and feel today, that without the support of my father and Uncle Johnny this very positive time in my life would have never happened.
We are so happy that Oma (Irene) was able to travel with Uncle Gord to see Uncle Johnny not too long ago. It meant so much to her and many weekends I would hear her talking to Uncle Johnny on the phone. We are all truly blessed for having Uncle Johnny in our lives. Every year Uncle Johnny and Auntie Lorraine would stop in Paradise on their way to visit Pop and Grandma. We would all be laughing to bursting with Uncle Johnny’s stories. We always looked forward to these wonderful times together.
Marty has come to visit us many times in Hawaii and given us all the news and updates of their life together. I am so proud of Marty for the loving care and support he gave Uncle Johnny for so many years. Such an example to the world.
Deva, Amala and Irene
To Rae, Barb and all of the family,
John and Lorraine always made me feel at home in their house in Nanimo. John knew my Dad from the aviation community in Ssakatchewan during the 50’s and 60’s. I enjoyed visiting with him but especially enjoyed his aviation stories. He was able to tell me a few stories about my own Dad that I did not know. Thanks for that John.
I count myself lucky to have met John and I know he will be missed by all who knew him.
Happy trails in the sky John.
I would also like to mention that the Quiet Birdmen of Regina shall raise a glass in John`s honor at the April monthly meating.
Hi Marty,Ray and family..So sorry to hear of John`s passing….. I hope we are all fortunate enough to live such a full and prosperous life …
Marty do you remember me burning out the starter in the Prairie Flying(about a 55 Chev half ton) service truck while parked in your driveway on Dolphin Bay? We were about 14 years old…… he gave me hell over that incident and would bring it up from time to time over the years with a grin on his face….
We chatted often over the years as I grew up and he grew older….I appreciated his wisdom and well thought out advice….
Best regards in this very sad time..
Since the news of Uncle Johnny’s passing I have revisited many special
memories of growing up with your family in Regina and would like to
share some of my recollections.
My first memory of Uncle Johnny and Aunt Lorraine is that they
were the providers of four great cousins- Rae, Marty, Pat and little
Lorrie. How could I forget all those family meals, sleepovers, picnics
in Wascana Park with visiting relatives and trips to the moon! “Trips
to the moon!” you say. Well in my mind, Uncle Johnny was one of the
coolest dads I’d ever met. He was the only dad that I knew who let his
kids convert the attached garage of their new home on Dolphin Bay
into a rocket ship. Rae, likely with the assistance of Marty and Pat, had
drawn rocket control panels on the inside garage walls. For me, this
made Uncle Johnny the epitome of ‘cool’. (We obviously never got to the
moon, but with Rae providing all the requisite sound effects we sure had
fun imagining it. Ha!)
My connection to my pilot uncle afforded me certain bragging rights. I
was the only kid in my class who had an uncle who could fly his family
in his very own airplane to an exotic location like California, a place that
boasted Disneyland and day-long cartoons on Saturday. Wow! Later
as a pre-teen I recall Uncle Johnny asking brother Don and me along
on a trip to visit our Gladstone relatives. After having driven that trip
many times I was amazed at how quickly we arrived at our destination.
I also recall magically flying through the beautiful cloud formations. I
was shameless about telling anyone who would listen about my first
airplane trip with my Uncle Johnny.
Uncle Johnny was a wonderful conversationalist, but I never would
have articulated that as a kid. However I did notice he had a neat way of
talking to me like he really was interested. He made me feel that what I
had to say was important because in later conversations he would ask
questions about what we had previously discussed. It was many years
later, when I watched Uncle Johnny talk to our children the same way,
that I truly appreciated what a special gift he had.
One of my fondest memories of Uncle Johnny focuses on our last visit.
What a fabulous storyteller! I asked him about life after the war and
he recounted how he and his partners developed the crop sprayer
prototype. It was truly amazing how he could describe the process in
such detail. What a challenging and exciting journey! He was so modest
about this invention and his induction into the Saskatchewan Aviation
Hall of Fame.
Lastly I want to say that in later years I was able to witness the close
relationship that my mom and your dad shared. These loving exchanges
will remain etched in my mind forever. They were such sweet moments
and are memories that I hold dear to my heart.
As you celebrate your Dad’s life please know that we are with you in
spirit. His is a beautiful life to celebrate! He was a great guy who will be
Love to all,
Linda and Larry
What I remember fondly about John Howe was how easy going and accepting he was towards me when I came for the occational visit to his home to visit Marty. I also appreciated John’s sense of humour. I remember a couple of weeks ago I drove him home early from one of Marty’s late night gigs, and I was not sure of the best way to drive him home, and I ended up having to turn around to go a more direct way. Then finding the turn off to his street was a bit of a challenge in the rainy dark night. Anyway, the next day I came over to Marty’s for a movie Hugo, a great movie Marty’s sister recommended, and he kidded me by asking me if I managed to find my way home the night before. I reassured him that I did. We both had a good chuckel.
Uncle Johnny….so many wonderful memories as a young child. I will always remember walikng into “his” airport and seeing all of the planes. I was so impressed that my uncle flew airplanes for a living! I see my sister, Pam, shared her experience going up into the plane and that is something I will never forget as well. I must have been around 7 or 8 years old and I was sooo excited to fly in his plane. In fact, it may have been the first time I was ever in a plane. He took off and we were up in the sky and he turned to us and said ” Thi part is fun!” and with that he cut the engine and we began to drop. I remember feeling like my stomach was still up above, it was the strangest feeling I had ever felt. Pam said she was terrified and I remember thinking this was exciting and made me feel funny. I was pretty happy to touch the ground. But that day made me think about what a fun guy my Uncle Johnny was.
He loved a party and always seemed to be smiling. And of course who could forget those eyebrows! When I was young they looked like caterpillars to me. I also have so many wonderful memories of going up to Lake Isabella and spending many evenings with your mom and dad and my parents. Pam, David and I were all young parents and boy we had lots of fun parties together. I can still see the four of them playing cribbage overlooking the lake. Our young children, Nicole, Brianne, Erica and Ryan would get into the dress up and delight them with their funny plays.
I could go on and on. I feel so very fortunate to have had my Uncle Johnny in my life and my families life.
He will truly be missed here on earth and I feel like he is in a great place now having a party with all his loved ones.
Our love goes out to all of you and we will be thinking of the Howe family on Sunday as you honor your father and say good-bye.
When I purchased Prairie Flying, From John & Lorraine, in 1975, a lifelong friendship was initiated. John was a great storyteller, and an inspiration to young pilots around the Regina Airport. His greatest inspirations occurred during the Friday night “Safety Meetings ” at the Flying Club. I now live in Australia, however I am in New York, this week. Johns friends sought me out for the news. He has a large following, that is far flung.
He leaves behind a fine family, and a legacy in the aviation industry. GoodBye John.
Bob MacPherson / March 29, 2012
I am glad that I got the chance to visit him a year and a half ago with my mom and Jim. I loved how he had to wear a toque all the time in order to keep warm – he seemed very stylish – like he was European or something – he was always a bit more worldly than his siblings. Even though he was a bit slower at moving at the time of our visit he was still great at telling stories and having a bit of a laugh. I even got to play a Wii game with him.
We’re all very sorry to hear of Uncle John’s recent passing. He was a great & very interesting man. I would call him twice a year to see what’s up and he was always so cheerful or happy to hear from us. He’d always ask, “how’s business” and then say “you boys are doing a fine job and say hi to your mom for me”. Of course no conversation was complete until we discussed the current price of gold.
John & Lorraine and Pat & Barb really enjoyed their visits over the years. As kids, Dave, Barbie & I really looked forward to the Regina trips to see our cousins and the chance that Uncle John would take us up for a plane ride. I remember once he let me fly the plane whilst he had a cat nap. He said watch out for your door, it won’t shut properly so make sure your seat belt is on and keep the plane level at this altitude by watching the horizon over the nose of the craft. Every now & then he’d open one eye to check on things. Cool.
John will be truly missed.
Dalton Howe, CAIB
My kids remember your Dad as they saw him every once in awhile. He was an Uncle to remember. Always so encouraging and loving. He cared about us and was always willing to go the extra mile to help us out and give us good advice. They really don’t make them like him anymore. It is a very sad, sad day. We will all miss him.
Love you guys so much,
I thought I’d share a couple short memories that I think of often. When I think of John I always remember his wit and humor and those eyebrows 😉 He was full of life and he and Lorraine were such a wonderful couple to be around. They were so much fun and made me laugh all the time! I remember one time in particular when I was rather young that my grandparents and your parents drove me and my brother Shayne up to Lake Isabella. On the way up Shayne and I were getting bored, as children often do in long car rides, so John decided to play a game. We were to take turn thinking of lines and phrases that rhymed (which would be the beginning of my understanding of how quick-witted and brilliant John was at rhyming). We were all coming up with some pretty good ones and continued to take turns until it was back to John. His next rhyme was “I got gas in my ass!” My brother and I laughed so hard, my grandmother did as well, but also slapped John on the leg. I don’t know why that memory is so vivid, but I still laugh about it till this day. We had many good times at Lake Isabella with them. It was always such a special treat to have them there when we were at the same time.
I also liked to read his special occasion cards he would send to my grandparents in the mail because they always had a “knock-knock” joke inside. I still can’t believe he never ran out of knock-knock jokes!
My other favorite memory is when my parents and I visited John in Nanaimo about 10 years ago. We had a wonderful visit with him. We toured around Nanaimo, played games, and probably had a few too many drinks the first night because we were so excited to be there! 🙂 I absolutely loved their deck and the view from their house. It was so nice to see the house completed as the last time I was up there he and Lorraine were in the building stages of their “dream home” – and a dream home it is! It was a special visit and one I will always treasure.
John will be missed greatly but I do believe there is quite the party going on in Heaven right now. 🙂 I wish you all comfort during this difficult time. May all the memories of your dad and mom embrace you and fill you with warmth and love.
There are many memories of your Dad because he was, just like the Ketcheson clan & their spouses, larger than life. But the one memory that will actually HAUNT me for the rest of my days is one just about your Dad. We were visiting you all one summer when I think I was about 10 or 11 & Uncle John took me & my sister & I don’t know who else, up in his plane for a joy ride. Airplane ride, yes. Joyous? Well, at first it was. I had never been on a plane before & it was unbelievable. I was nervous & your Dad was having the time of his life showing off his manuvering skills to the oooh’s, aahh’s & squeals of delight mixed with terror coming from us. He drove us over vast expanses of golden fields, over the house you lived in, and it was breathtaking. He even wanted us to take command of the plane! Then it happened. He was flying along, nice as can be & then he just dropped down in the sky. He had cut the power & I felt like we were plummeting to the earth. I thought my stomach was going to come up out of my mouth! I don’t remember if I screamed but I must have because I was terrified! He just looked at us with a fake “Oh My Gosh” look on his face & then laughed, turned the engine back on & righted the plane. He assured us that all was well, that he was just playing around. To this day, when I am in a plane that has any turbulence I am right back there!
Your Dad had a great sense of humor and a kind heart. He will be missed but I know that there is some kind of party goin’ on somewhere in the universe welcoming him.
John, Lorraine and the boys were our next-door neighbours in the 1950s in ‘The Terrace’ on 12th Avenue. I have distant memories of getting into trouble with Rae in the dustbin, or the mud, or whatever. For the rest of their lives, whenever I saw John and Lorraine they lovingly reminded me of their fondness for me and their wish to adopt me if they could. What a wonderful gift that was for the child I was and the adult I became. Dear and great-souled John will be missed. Love to you all.
To family of John and Lorraine:
First off, let me thank you for keeping me within the friendly circle of the Howe family.
I will go back to Abbey, where , Olga Ketcheson welcomed one and all who came to her door. Not just a cheery “hello,” but “come in have coffee” and if it was mealtime, a welcome to the table. There must be something in the genes- Lorraine , exactly like her extraordinary mother, always smiled at the door. and opened it wide. No mistaking that gesture. Come in — Lorrie and Alex welcomed me in the same way.
Now, about John, I listened with interest, and even wrote this down somewhere, when he told me how he and his Dad moved cattle from the parched prairie to greener pastures. John out of school for this family
saving venture, a tradition he carried on with zeal, looking after the family , providing well, and assuring the future. I was most fortunate to spend some time in his beautiful home on the ocean. I watched an
eagle start his dinner on the lawn in front of the patio door, carry it to the tree outside the kitchen window and, the rest is history (for the fish) big enough to be salmon but what do I know. Families of eagles also put on a show for me, diving and soaring, what a wonder, teaching their children how to fly —
John, by example, taught his children “how to fly”. Well done, John.
To all. family, friends, raise a glass to John from me.
With love Mary Dean
Dear Lorrie, Ray, Pat and Marty.
We are very sorry that Uncle John passed away. Wendy and I regret we cannot make it to the service.
We are very privileged as a family to have “Our” Uncle John. Every family member cannot help but smile when we celebrate our memories of John.
It is impossible to remember and celebrate Uncle John’s life without Aunt Lorraine. They were always together. John and Lorraine were so in love and each others best friend. They always opened their home and welcomed all the family (in-laws and outlaws) into their lives.
All of us nieces and nephews thought of him as our personal Uncle John. Regardless of your age, be that a child or an adult, Uncle John took the time to talk to us and more importantly, listen. Thank you Uncle John for helping to bring Jason back into the family. No surprise. You made a big impression with Jason and he realized what a wonderful big family he was a part of.
It was always an event when Uncle John and Aunt Lorraine came to visit. My earliest memories of john are of Uncle John the Pilot when we lived at the ranch. We did not have a phone. I still to this day do not know if the adults at the ranch knew when John and the family were coming to visit, but my first clue was when John would fly his Cessna low over the ranch and waggle his wings. We would all run out in the yard and wave like mad. He would make 3 passes and on the 2nd or third fly over, a cocoa cylinder with a quick note would drop telling us that he would be landing at Ferland the nearest grass air strip or up on top. To this day when I am at home, and a small plane flies over, I still look up.
John and Lorraine celebrated life together. They lived life and loved to laugh. It was fun and safe to be included by them. Uncle John had a chuckle that was uniquely his. Life was good when he was telling his Knock, Knock Joke.. Knock, Knock. Whos there?
Felix. Felix who? And Uncle John would get this big grin on his face and he would REPLY, feel excited?
My fondest memory of Uncle John was his philosophy he often shared with us.
“Fifty years from now it won’t matter”. He always chuckled after sharing that.
We will miss you Uncle John.
Larry and Wendy Thompson MB
Dear Lorrie, Rae, Marty and Pat and family, March 26, 2012
You all are in our thoughts with the passing of your dear dad and grandpa, my dear Uncle John.
Life moves so quickly, and it is with breathless wonder that I realize how ordinary daily events take on a special meaning and become treasured memories at a later time. I want to share some of my treasures with you now.
As you know, Uncle Johnny lived with me and Wayne and Mom and Dad for a few years after World War 2, before he was married and long before you all were born. When I was about seven years of age, one of my first memories was laying out Uncle John’s monstrously huge pyjamas on his bed and trying to figure out how to fold them so they would fit neatly under his pillow. It was not without some consternation and many fruitless attempts that I was able to finally accomplish this monumental task!
The next thing I remember was peering over the side of my bed where stood Uncle Johnny and a girl. I had been asleep, but Johnny woke me up to show off this new girlfriend, Lorraine. He pointed out to me that he brought her all the way from downtown to our house in the east end of Regina just so we could get acquainted. He always made me feel special. One May 7th I attended the most beautiful wedding – what an event for an eight year old – an event I have relived every year. It was with some reluctance to see Johnny leave our place and go out to another life, but it did mean that the big bed would now be mine!
There was a very sad period in my life when my fiancée was killed in a car accident. Cousin Cliff Hatlelid took me under his wing and kept me company. On several occasions Cliff and I would land on the Howe doorstep, to be greeted with open arms. Never once did Johnny or Lorraine ever yawn in our faces or hint that they had a big day ahead of them. Rather, they kept the coffee pot going and kept the conversation light and fun, way into the wee hours of the night. I was very grateful for the comfort they provided me on those evenings.
Another time I dropped into hangar 2 at the airport to visit Uncle Johnny. He welcomed me with a hug and said, “Say, I was just going to take this Cessna up for a test. We’ve had some trouble with the landing gear. Why don’t you come up with me and we can have a visit!” I looked at him in horror and he laughed when he realized what I was envisioning. He added, “I’m pretty sure I have fixed it. There should be no trouble!” What a treat that was for me! My first and last time in the cockpit of a plane. Johnny even let me “drive” it as we soared over the city.
It was Trayton’s and my good fortune when Lorrie and Alex moved to Toronto. That meant that Uncle Johnny and Aunt Lorraine would come to see their daughter and family. It also meant that we could look forward to those yearly visits, too. One time we made a trip with Johnny to the cottage. It was so much fun to sit cozily in front of the fire, with Trayton prodding Johnny with questions about John’s ambition as a kid, his experiences during the war and the setting up of the Prairie Flying Service in Regina. We sat for hours enjoying Johnny recount those years with such gusto and humour. On our return to Toronto, we stopped in Trenton at the air base to show Johnny where a plaque had been placed in memory of his brother Martin. We also wanted to show Johnny the Halifax, a bomber which had been brought up from the bottom of a lake in Norway and was being reconstructed in the RCAF Museum in Trenton. It was Johnny who pointed out to us that the Halifax a bomber, was a newer version of the Avro Lancaster (a plane he himself had flown). There was one difference, however. The Halifax was 9 inches longer than the Lancaster, a 9 inch space created so a tailgunner could keep his parachute near him for quick use, instead of storing it in the body of the plane. Trust Johnny to regale us with that little tidbit!
We have all enjoyed Johnny’s storytelling. Here is one story he told me that always brings a smile to my face.
The time is the dirty 30’s, the time of the depression. Johnny was about 10 or 11 years of age and it was his job to keep the water trough full of water for their horses, using a manual pump. He was not particularly happy that horses from neighbouring farms were frequenting this water hole. (During these hard times horses were allowed to roam freely, so they could scavenge for something to eat and drink.) The more horses that came to drink meant the more often Johnny had to fill the trough. He took a lingering look at the horses’ tails and, being the entrepreneurial type, he figured he might make a buck. Horsehair brought a good price – $1.50 to $2.00 a bag. He proceeded to manicure the tails of visiting horses, carefully avoiding cutting into the fleshy part of their tails. Over a period of time he collected six to seven bags of horsehair which he cleverly hid in the barn. One day when he went to recount his bags and gloat over his future wealth, he could not find them. They were gone! He learned that the bags had been discovered and taken – every last bag – to town to be sold and the proceeds of this sale had gone into the pot to help Anne and Mabel buy supplies they needed for normal school. This was not his plan! Word of what happened soon got around the countryside. Mr. MacMillan, who was a bachelor in town, commented to Johnny the next time he saw him, “Yeh, John, it sure was a tough winter – all the horses got short tails!” (Once John accepted the reality of his bungled plan, he has joked how he contributed to the girls’ education.)
How wonderful it is to be able to call Uncle Johnny uncle, and to have shared such happy times together. I wouldn’t change this for the whole world. These memories are truly my treasures.
Sending you all our love across the miles.
Bette and Trayton
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