Husband, father, grandfather, pilot, raconteur. Born Sept. 8, 1932, in Weston, Ont., died Feb. 14, 2012, in Goderich, Ont., of a heart attack, aged 79.
Don White and his twin brother, Doug, were constant companions as they grew up, attending Cubs and Boy Scouts together, playing trumpet in the school orchestra and building a cottage with their father at Lake of Bays the summer they were 16.
Don knew from the time he was five that he wanted to be a pilot. When he was 17, he borrowed some money to enroll in flying lessons at the Toronto Flying Club. On the day he was to receive his wings, he was flying to St. Catharines when, about half-way there, the engine quit. He had reached a good altitude, so he turned around and glided safely back to Malton Airport.
The wartime flying ace Billy Bishop was there to present the students with their wings. When Billy approached Don, he leaned forward and whispered: “You had quite an experience today, but you made an error. The rule is that you never turn around because you can lose too much altitude. But I guess you proved that wrong.”
Don became a talented and courageous pilot. During the late 1950s, he worked in the Arctic servicing the Mid Canada and DEW (Distant Early Warning) radar lines.
On one occasion, when he was flying 33 world-renowned geologists to a gathering at Frobisher Bay, both engines were ailing and there was no lake nearby to attempt a crash landing. Don had no choice but to try to get enough height to clear the mountains. After many anxious moments, he landed the plane safely.
Another time, he risked his life to rescue a young Inuit girl who was very ill. Don flew through a stormy night to pick her up and take her to a larger centre for medical attention.
Don’s time in the Arctic made an indelible impression on him and he shared many stories of his adventures with family and friends.
Following his time there, he worked for an insurance company, two airports and a road-machinery company, finally selling real estate until his retirement. Although he enjoyed all of these roles, flying was always in the background, whether he was teaching flying in the evenings or operating a flying club.
Though he’d been educated in so many ways, Don always felt disappointed that he hadn’t finished high school. In the 1980s and 1990s he remedied that by studying for his BA at the University of Western Ontario, graduating when he was 62.
Don and Doug were introduced to their wives on blind dates arranged by each other.
Don married Blain Allen in 1956 and they lived in Quebec and Alberta before settling in Toronto, where they had three daughters, Linda, Catherine and Margaret.
Don and Blain spent 39 happy years together until she passed away in 1995. After her death, Don lived with his daughter Margaret in Goderich, Ont., and enjoyed his retirement by indulging in his many interests and hobbies, including driving his red Mustang convertible around town, spending summers at the family cottage in Bayfield, and doting on grandsons Drew and James.
Linda, Catherine, Margaret and Doug White are Don’s children.
Follow us on Twitter: