Gery Lemon Achieves New Milestone

Written by Harold McNeill on April 2nd, 2013. Posted in Biographies


Portrait of Gery Lemon and Graham Hill taken by long time family friend Rebecca Kirstein. This note by Gery: “Rebecca is like a daughter. She is a very accomplished photographer and over the years shot our wedding, Kelsey’s wedding – all kinds of family gatherings and reunions. This picture was presented in preparation for Graham’s campaign in 2011 – for his fourth term as mayor. It’s in front of the rock wall across from the Four Mile – beautiful work of public art. The shot was to go on his brochure and website …..I think we look in love.”

Saturday, April 6, 09:30, Dear Reader:  The original story was somehow deleated last Monday when work was being completed on a server transfer. The new story is posted below. If you note any errors in names, please email me a note at harold@mcneillifestories.com

 

A recent story about Gery and Graham may be linked here: Graham and Harold’s Christmas Adventure

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Black Friday: An Amazing Coincidence

Written by Harold McNeill on June 30th, 2012. Posted in Biographies


To receive regular notifcations of new posts, link to the
McNeill Life Stories Facebook page and click Like.
LINK HERE

An Amazing Coincidence

Following is an observation for the math guru’s among you.

While completing the Black Friday story, I first met P/O Bert Ramsden who, in the 404 Squadron photo, is standing immediately below and to the right of the nose cone V3 painted on the Beaufighter. No big deal, he just picked a place to stand and there he stood very near the symmetrical centre of the photo, a modest 1 in 59 chance of occupying that position.

Later, while researching the article, the name of one other member of the squadron air crew still living was found to be P/O Miller Bryce. It was not until I was highlighting names in the photo I discovered P/O Bryce was standing just below and to the left of the V3, shoulder to shoulder with P/O Ramsden.

Now there is nothing unusual about just two members being left alive as that was bound to happen at some point. However, that the final two living members of the 59 members in that squadron photo were randomly standing side by side seemed highly coincidental. This will be further discussed later.

In an email exchange with Don Flynn, the son of P/O Pat Flynn, I was told I had missed his dad’s name on the photo name list. He told me his father was sitting directly above Ramsden and Bryce on the nosecone above the V3. Sure enough, I had accidentally missed the name the first time around. Now, of the three members coming to my attention, all are sitting or standing in a symmetrical position around the V3 nosecone!

Photo: Cropped section of the Squadron photo displayed in the introduction.  Link here to the full Squadron Photo. (Lead photo in the Black Friday Story)

During the Black Friday Ceremony held in 2008, in Naustdal, Norway, the two living members (and their families) along with the family of one deceased member, were represented.  Of course, the two living members were P/O Ramsden and P/O Bryce.  The third, represented by his wife and son, was, take a guess, P/O Flynn, the man who completed the Beaufighter nosecone triangle.

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Black Friday in Norway

Written by Harold McNeill on June 9th, 2012. Posted in Biographies


Above: Artists depiction of Beaufighters from the Australian 455 Squadron attacking German Ships in a Norwegian Fjord.
Along with the Australians, the RCAF (Royal Canadian) Squdron 404 (pictured below), RNZAF (Royal New Zealand), Squadron 489 and RAF (English) Squadron 144,
took part in one the the largest Air Battles to ever take place in the skies over Norway. Bert Ramsden was part of battle.

In Memory of Bert Ramsden
1921 – 2014

Bert Ramsden

November 3, 2014
Pilot Officer Bert Ramsden, the subject of this story, passed away peacefully at his home in Saanich, British Columbia. The young man who fought in the Second World War shall not be forgotten.

At the age of 93, Bert joins his beloved wife, Marie who predeceased him in 2004, as well as parents, Joseph and Mercy and brothers, Cal (Eleanor) and Cec (Bess).  Born in Castor, Alta., Bert is survived by his son, Don (Nancy); daughter, Karen (Chip); grandchildren, Andrea (Chris), Jennie (Trevor), Jon, Jamie and Jeff and great-grandchild, Zachary.

A memorial service will be held at 1:00 pm on Friday, November 14, 2014  at
St. Aidan’s United Church, 3703 St. Aidan’s Street in Victoria.  

Below, Pilot Officer Bert Ramsden ties his shoe on the tire of his Beaufighter.

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The following story was written after several interviews with Bert first at his home in Saanich and then at various coffee shops along Shelbourne Street during May and June 2014.  At 91, Bert was ever the affable pilot officer who was still more than able to charm the young women at our various coffee stops along the way.

The photos in this post and in the attached photo album were copied mainly from Bert’s personal files and from various Web Sites that carried information about Black Friday.  During the period of research and writing, an amazing coincidence became apparent. This coincidence was written up in a separate post that may be linked below the names of those show in the photo below.

Bert was one of the thousands of young men who left their homes, families, farms, businesses and careers to join the Second World War effort in Europe and other parts of the world.  While Bert returned home without injury, many of his comrades in arms were not so lucky and it is on November 11, each year that we celebrate these young men and the sacrifice they made to make our world a better place.  While I say that Bert returned without injury, it is clear he still carried with him, even at the age of 91, a degree of guilt that he walked away when so many of his flying comrades died in the battles in the skies above Norway and elsewhere.

We shall remember Bert.

Harold McNeill
November 9, 2014
Victoria, B.C.

Pilot Officer Bert Ramsden and the Flying 404

RCAF Squadron 404 (Circa Spring, 1945, Banff, Scotland)

Ramsden Photo Files: RCAF 404 Squadron, Bert Ramsden is standing
immediately below and to the right of the “V3“.

Ramsden and 404 Squadron

A high-resolution copy of this photo, in which all the faces and printing is clear, can be obtained by leaving a note on this posting or by sending an email to harold@mcneillifestories.com
(double click to open in a larger size)

Top Row on Wings
F/L Stewart (standing), F/O Bondy, P/O Wade, P/O Michael (standing centre), P/O Flynn (below Michael), F/L Foord (standing), F/O Nelson (front of Foord), F/O Gibbard, W/O Gracie, F/O Catrand.

Second Row Down (immediately below wing L/R)
F/S Aube(y), F/S Orser, F/O Mallilieu, F/O Williams, F/Lt Hill, F/O Cook, F/O Burns, P/O Bryce, P/O Ramsden, P/O Elliot, F/O Jones, F/O Bedwell, P/O Wright, P/O Camanella

Second Row Below Wing
F/S Henderson, F/Lt Ball, P/O Landry, F/O Aljoe, F/O Coyne, F/O Tomes, F/Lt Rancourt,
F/L Toon(e), F/Lt Jackson, F/O McKnight, P/O Temple, F/O Lee, F/O Johnson, F/O McCallan,
P/O Moe, F/O Stansak, F/O Miller, F/O Jasper.

Bottom Row (L to R)
F/O Panuk, not named, F/Lt Wilkinson, F/Lt Hill, Capt Chodoroff, S/Ld Inman, F/Lt Bolli, S/L Schoales,
W/C Pierce, S/L Christison, S/L Jones, F/L Watlington, F/L Beacook, F/L Spencer, F/L Corder
F/O Hines, F/O Keele

Missing from Photo
F/O Elbury, P/O Wallace, W/O Rumble (P/O Ramsden’s Navigator)

For an Amazing Coincidence regarding placements in the above photo
LINK HERE

To view the full set of photos of events surrounding this story:
Link here to McNeill Life Stories Facebook Page

A Pittance of Time (For Video Link Here)

Black Friday: An Epic Air Battle of World War II

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A Life Long Learner

Written by Harold McNeill on October 30th, 2011. Posted in Biographies


The purpose of learning is growth, and our minds, unlike our bodies, can continue growing as we continue to live.
-Mortimer J. Adler

That’s what learning is, after all; not whether we lose the game, but how we lose and how we’ve changed because of it and what we take away from it that we never had before, to apply to other games. Losing, in a curious way, is winning.
Richard Bach, The Bridge Across Forever, 1984

A Lifelong Learner

Lynn Grad

October 28, 2011    This past Friday family and friends gathered at Camosun College to join in the celebration with fifteen hundred students who completed program studies ranging from full degrees to certification in various trades and career specialities. Among those being recognized was our very own Lynn Frances McNeill, a woman who is the very definition of a ‘lifelong learner’.

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Dmitry Brukhanov – A Young Russian Ambassador

Written by Harold McNeill on February 7th, 2011. Posted in Biographies


Dmitry Brukhanov– A Young Russian Ambassador

Passionate! The first word we use to describe Dmitriy Mikhailovich Brukhanov, our most direct contact with Russia in the XXII Olympiad. This adjective is followed in rapid succession by inspired, eager, animated, excited and enthusiastic. This only begins to describe our Dmitriy.

This young man, in his mid- twenties, hails from the historic city of Moscow, a city that has experienced more history than any Canadian city by a factor of many hundreds. For “older” movie buffs, who could forget ‘Dr. Zhivago’ a Russian love story of epic proportion? Perhaps the 2007 Russian historical movie “1612” will evoke similar feelings within a younger generation.

In a very real sense Dmitriy represents a modern day ‘love story’ – a love for his country and a love for the athletes of his country. Dmitriy has joined the XXII Olympiad with a single mindedness of purpose that might tend to elude those of us who are less focused on our mission or who live in more affluent nations. Dmitriy is here to learn – to learn as much as he can about the Olympics, the Olympic movement and the participating countries as is humanly possible in a few short weeks. The blazing red and white swirled colors of his homeland, as displayed by the Russian athletes, aptly represent his passion.

While Dmitriy occasionally searches for words to express his thoughts, he speaks clear, precise English with a Russian accent that is most pleasing to our English-only ears. It takes but a few sentences from Dmitriy to sense the passion he brings to his duties at Whistler’s Athletes’ Village.

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Laura Isabel: The Final Chapter – 5 of 5

Written by Harold McNeill on October 19th, 2010. Posted in Biographies


Laura Isabel: The Final Chapter 5 of 5

In 2000, after 35 years on the farm, Laura and Wilfred bade a tearful farewell and moved to a home in Cold Lake just a few blocks from Frank and Louise. The move was initially difficult for Wilfred as he had lived on the farm for over 60 years. However, once in their new home, the couple again worked hard on the lawns and gardens and created a neighbourhood gem.

Having become accustomed to the large deck that Frank and Wilfred built on the farm house after it was moved to the new farm site, Wilfred, Harold, Kari (McNeill) and Ashley (Yochim) constructed a large deck on their new home, a deck that continued to provide years of enjoyment for family and friends. Sadly, in 2002, after a lingering illness, Wilfred passed away in the Cold Lake hospital and is much missed by his family and friends. We shall always treasure those years on the farm.

Photo: Laura had a lifelong love affair with flowers. From the very earliest years on the homestead until the day she passed away in 2008, her house was always surrounded by flowers every summer.

While the passing of Wilfred brought to a close another chapter in the extraordinary life of Laura, true to her pioneer spirit, she continued her winning ways with a “warm welcome” for anyone who might chance to pop by for a coffee or home made pie or pastries.  While Laura scaled back in some areas she continued to maintain a wonderful array of flowers and always had fresh baked bread and pastries for her family and friends. As she is fond of saying: “I love my Bosch” and she used it almost everyday to whip up a little something. Who can ever forget a big helping of her homemade bread and gravy or those buns that have became legend within the family?

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Laura Isabel: Uffda! – A New Beginning – Chapter 4 of 5

Written by Harold McNeill on October 19th, 2010. Posted in Biographies


Laura Isabel: Uffda! – A New Beginning – Chapter 4 of 5

Never one to look back with yearning or regret, Laura married a neighboring farmer, Wilfred Skarsen , and the happy couple started a whole new life with Dianne, who was just approaching her teens. Uncle Lennel (Wilfred’s older brother) lived with them while sharing the original family home until, 1982, at the age of 73, Lennel married Emma Adele Shular. Both Mom and Wilfred Wedding Daymen, who, to that point, remained bachelors, were suddenly the step-fathers to 13 children and countless grandchildren.  Both stepped into those big shoes as if they had been groomed for the roles their entire lives.

Laura’s beau, Wilfred, was the sixth of seven sons of Oscar (1880) and Petra (1890) Skarsen (Myhre) whose families began homesteading the Riverhurst area in I939. This enterprising Norwegian-Canadian family – son’s, Lennel, Julian, Melvin, Morgan, Percy, Wilfred, Wilbert and, daughter Stella – quickly expanded their interests into mixed farming, fishing, hunting, logging and milling, trapping, carpentry and commercial painting. They were an industrious family group and added much to life in the Cold Lake area.

Laura and Wilfred continued to live on the original Skarsen homestead in Cold Lake, however when Highway 55 was widened in 1981, they moved the entire farm, lock stock, barrel and grainery, 500 yards to the north-west.  This new location, with freshly painted granaries, a new barn and a backdrop of pine and poplar, quickly became a showcase as Laura and Wilfred expanded the gardens and expansive lawns.

Their efforts lead to an Alberta Government “Farm Beautification Award” in 1985, just three years after moving to the new location. Laura also received personal recognition in 1996 when she was awarded the Provincial “Imogene Duce Award” for her activity with the local TOPS Chapter. A few words from that award express the sentiment of any who have come to know Laura:

“Love, caring and understanding – a person possessing an abundance of any one of
these qualities is truly exceptional. We have just such an exceptional lady in our chapter
and she is perhaps even more exclusive because she excels, not just in one but in all three
of these categories…”   (Diana French, Chapter Leader, TOPS AB4003, Riverhurst)

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Laura Isabel: The Young Woman – Chapter 3 of 5

Written by Harold McNeill on October 19th, 2010. Posted in Biographies


Laura Isabel: The Young Woman – Chapter 3 of 5

During her teen years, Laura and her family went about the daily routine of cooking meals, working in the garden, mowing hay, looking after the animals, cutting wood and all the chores that were part of early farm life on the prairies. Because they were so close to Birch Lake, the kids had many fond memories of swimming and boating on those hot summer days when they could sneak away from their daily chores.

Always a homebody, Laura traveled for the first time, at age 16, to work on a family farm outside Battleford looking after five kids under the age of four.  She became so homesick after a couple of weeks that her dad traveled to Battleford in his Model T to pick her up. Her next job was working as a cook for a road construction crew as they rebuilt Highway 55 (now Hwy 3) out of Glaslyn.

When Laura was 21, the family suffered a double tragedy when her brother, Leonard, then twenty-five, was drowned in the Shuswap River while trying to save a friend’s life after the friend had fallen from a log boom on which they were working.  While the whole family grieved over the loss, their father Bill took the death particularly hard. Later that winter he contracted scarlet fever and, tragically, in the early spring of 1940, he died at the age of 51 just a few months before Laura married Dave McNeill.

Following the death of her son and husband, life for her mother and the family became very difficult.  Shirley was barely two, Helen and Marcia were five and seven and Tonnie had just turned ten. Melvin returned home to help his mom, followed later by Clifford who had served in the military until the end of the Second World War. In order to help make ends meet, Lilly, Helen and Marcia worked on neighbouring farm but the nearly all the money they earned was deducted for room and board and any remaining, which was pitifully little, was deducted from her meager widow’s pension of $30 per month.

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Comments

  • Andrew Dunn

    May 14, 2019 |

    Thank you so much for all your help thus far Harold, aka. Tractor guy! I could not have done without you!

  • Harold McNeill

    April 25, 2019 |

    I find it interesting to contemplate how a small community evolves in general isolation from the rest of the world. We have a similar situation in the northern communities in Canada to which access is limited. The inclusion of the world wide web and mass media has changed things, but these communities are still left pretty much to their own devices when it comes to personal interaction.

  • Harold McNeill

    March 19, 2019 |

    Hi Dave. Not that I am aware and I have a fairly comprehensive family tree for the McNeill side of the family. I will pull it up and scan. Cheers, Harold. Great chatting with you and I will give Ben a nudge.

  • Dave Cassels

    March 16, 2019 |

    Were you related to Guy McNeill who owned the Bruin Inn in St. Albert in the late 40’s or early 50’s? Guy was a close friend of my father-in-law who was the first President of the Royal Glenora Club. My phone number is 780 940 1175. Thank you.

  • Harold McNeill

    March 15, 2019 |

    So glad you found the story and enjoyed. Indeed, they were memorable times. I did a fair amount of searching but never managed to contact any of the Murffit kids. However, it was neat to make contact with the Colony and someone I knew from back in the day. I have enjoyed writing these stories from back in the 1940s and 50s and have made contact with a lot of friends from those early years. I will give you a call over the weekend. Cheers, Harold

  • Yvonne (Couture) Richardson

    March 7, 2019 |

    I enjoyed your story. I too, lived in Pibroch in 1951, as my parents owned the hotel there. I was a very close friend of Bonnie Murfitt at the time. I moved to Edmonton in 1952, however, and have not seen her since. I would like to be in touch with you to talk about your story. My email is listed above and my phone number is 780-475-3873.

  • Laureen Kosch/Patry

    March 5, 2019 |

    I grew up in Pibroch and would not trade those years for anything. “ Kids don’t know how to play anymore” Never was a truer statement made. During the summer we were out the door by 8am, home for lunch, and back when it got dark. For the most part our only toys were our bikes and maybe a baseball mitt. I will never forget the times when all the kids got together in “Finks field” for a game of scrub baseball. Everybody was welcome, kids from 8 to 18. I didn’t know it then but I guess I had a childhood most dream of. Drove thru town last summer. It all looked a lot smaller.

  • Harold McNeill

    January 13, 2019 |

    Well, my dear, it’s that time again. How the years fly by and the little ones grow but try as you may you will have a hard time catching up to your Daddy. Lots of love young lady and may your day be special
    Love, Dad

  • Harold McNeill

    January 5, 2019 |

    Guess what? My response went to the Spam folder. Hmm, do you suppose the system is trying to tell me something?

  • Harold McNeill

    January 5, 2019 |

    Thanks, Terrance. Your comment came through but went to the Spam folder. Have pulled it out and approved. Can you send another on this post to see if you name is now removed from Spam? I’m not sure why it does that. Cheers, Harold