Leslie, Stuart MacKenzie
21 FEB 1924-2018
The last of Walter and Alice’s 5 children, Stuart slipped the surly bonds of earth on the morning of his 94th birthday. Some might say he was a man more of prose than poetry: A man intent on the news; fascinated with the weather that dominated his military and civilian careers; interested in the facts and realism. But there was poetry too: The tumbling mirth of family life and voyages to exotic lands on a shoestring, or in luxury, but mostly on no-notice and always in good company.
Pre-deceased by sisters; Jean (Robert McCudden), Ruth (Wib Heenan), and brothers Grant (Lois Edgar), and Frank (Verna Erickson), Stuart was the eldest son and took the role to heart. A well-loved uncle who had a movie-script story to tell, he was always in touch, reaching out to draw together. The Dirty Thirties in Winnipeg were not an abstract economic concept for Stuart. Their deprivations and moral decisions – his pharmacist father’s business collapsed when he began accepting trumpet lessons for his sons in lieu of cash for medication – focused Stuart on doing the right thing and getting a job. With a high school education he found work in the instrument shop of Trans Canada Airlines, and so started a lifelong relationship with flight.
Joining the RCAF in 1942 on white lies about his age (too young by a hair) and ability to withstand motion sickness (almost none) Stuart became a pilot for 429 heavy bomber squadron. On his 10th mission over Europe from a base in Yorkshire the other 6 crew in the plane died and he found himself in a Flemish cornfield in the middle of the night. Taken in, patched up, and spirited away by strangers who risked everything to do so, he narrowly avoided being shipped to a death camp and was in Brussels when it was liberated in 1944. Reconnecting with these strangers, turning them into friends, and repaying his debts became central to Stuart’s life. He was an active and committed member of the Royal Air Forces Escaping Society.
Stuart returned to civilian life, moving around the Air Canada network as a flight dispatcher until his retirement in 1989, at which point he promptly took up 3 part time jobs. He married Joan Shirley Martin and their son, Scott, was born in 1954. While the marriage did not last, his love for Scott never wavered. After marrying Lois Louise King in 1970, a son, Myles was born in 1972. Lois was the love and bedrock of his life, with all the joys and complications those positions hold.
Scott married Betty Cragg in 1983 on a night that Stuart loved to recall included not just dancing and drinks, but Air Canada Flight 143 gliding through footless halls of air into Gimli Manitoba. Grandsons Jared (Meg Sweeney), Nick, and Kent arrived over the following years. While attending the wedding of a granddaughter of the Flemish farmer who first took Stuart in from the cornfield in 1944, Myles met and married Sofie Pepermans. Granddaughter Juliet appeared in 2012, adding some girlish energy and consistently melting Stuart’s heart. Gathering this clan and other friends together for his 92nd birthday in sunny Martinique was a high point of the last years.
To Dan, Melanie, Charles, the staff at VGH and his many friends from the Dunbar-Ryerson community, and curling league, the neighborhood, the Crescent Beach legion, and the Air Force Officers’ Association, Stuart bids a fond farewell, and his family express their deepest thanks for your time together. A celebration of Stuart’s life will be held at Dunbar-Ryerson United Church on March 24th, 2018 at 1:30 pm. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation of time or talent to an appropriate charity.
And so, he goes, reaching out to touch the face of God.