Airman, husband, father, grandfather, professional manager. Born June 12, 1925, in Figheldean, England. Died Oct. 8, 2011, in Calgary of injuries sustained in an ATV accident, aged 86.
Keith Sheppard came from an aviation family – his father, Frank, served in the Royal Flying Corps in the First World War. Frank died when Keith was a boy, so he and his sister, Rita, were raised by their mother, Winnifred.
During the Battle of Britain, Keith and his friends would ride their bikes to airplane crash sites to get souvenirs before the police arrived. By 1942, Keith was so eager to get involved that he “misrepresented” his age and volunteered to join the Royal Air Force. By 1944, he was a navigator/plotter flying in Lancaster bombers against targets in occupied Europe, and by the time the war ended, he was well into his second tour of combat operations.
In the closing days of the war, Keith's squadron was reassigned from bombing targets to humanitarian work. He participated in Operation Manna, where planes dropped food to the starving people of the Netherlands. He also participated in Operation Exodus, the evacuation of inmates from the Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany.
When the war ended, Keith's only real plan was to stay in the RAF and keep flying. He volunteered again, this time to fly military passengers in converted bombers to and from Europe, Africa and Asia.
In 1952, sinus trouble meant that Keith could no longer fly, so he resigned from the RAF and looked around for something else to do. Life got better soon after when he met Joan Ferriman, and they married in 1953. Keith persuaded Joan to immigrate to Canada in 1954. They settled in London, Ont., where Keith became a supervisor and then manager in a manufacturing plant.
In the mid-sixties, Keith, Joan and their two sons, Kevin and Adrian, relocated to Calgary, where Keith worked as a manager for Cantech Corp. He still got to fly from time to time – as a passenger on business or pleasure trips. Aviation remained a key interest, and he kept track of every flight he ever took in his aircrew log book.
After retirement in 1985, Keith and Joan became active in the Calgary Aircrew Association. Keith spoke at many aircrew and aviation events, and at one event met Dutch people who had survived the war because of Operation Manna.
The last few years were tough on Keith. Joan had a stroke and went into long-term care in Calgary in late 2010. His health started to fail. Last September, Keith was injured in the Alberta foothills when he lost control of the quad he was driving and crashed into a tree. He died days later.
Keith’s aviation legacy continues. Kevin married into another aviation family, and just as it did at Keith’s house, talk around the dinner table always turns to flying.
By Kevin Sheppard, Keith’s son.