Commanding officer, business leader, great-grandfather, music lover. Born Dec. 12, 1920, in Glasgow, died April 16, 2013, in Winnipeg of pneumonia, aged 92.
In 1929, when he was 8, Hugh and his younger sister Mary were brought to Canada from Scotland by their grandmother. Life was tough in those early years in Winnipeg, and Hugh left school at Grade 8 to help support his family.
At 18, he rode his bicycle to the recruiting office and joined the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders. On Aug. 19, 1942, he was one of 19 young men in his company who made it back to base following the Dieppe Raid. This event would stay with him for the rest of his life. Every year on Aug. 19, he would lower the flag at the cottage and sit quietly, remembering the friends who never made it home. It took him many years before he could talk to his family about his experience on that horrific day.
While recovering from surgery on his foot after the war, Hugh met his wife, Agnes Bardal, a nurse, at Deer Lodge Veterans Hospital in Winnipeg. They were married for more than 67 years and raised four children: Margret, Donald, Elizabeth and Alyson.
As a teenager, Hugh had built himself a radio and discovered classical music. The family home was always filled with music from his extensive record collection. Opera, Gilbert and Sullivan and the Pipes and Drums were played at full blast.
Hugh was also a model railroader and a collector of coins, clocks and pocket watches. He loved to sing Scottish songs, using a thick Glaswegian accent. With Agnes at the piano, he was the highlight of many family gatherings.
Hugh and Agnes bought a lot in 1957, cleared the land and built their cottage at Caddy Lake with their children’s help. The family cottage became a place filled with memories over the years. The 10 grandchildren would later say that the lake gave them their sense of family, the value of hard work and an appreciation for nature.
Hugh was a leader in business, being the founding CEO of one of Winnipeg’s first cable television companies in 1968. He was the national chairman of the Canadian Cable Television Association and the Canadian Corps of Commissionaires. After the war, he continued his career in the militia, rising to the rank of Brigadier General in 1973. He was invested as Commander in the Order of Military Merit in 1976.
Hugh worked hard to overcome the obstacles that life threw in his way. He valued honesty, doing the right thing and standing up for what you believe in. He was an inspiration to others, determined to succeed and always ready with a funny saying or comment, even in his final hours. He is sorely missed for his wisdom and that thumbs-up gesture and gentle smile.
Margret, Donald, Elizabeth and Alyson Comack are Hugh’s children.