Soldier, sailor, hunter, golfer, entrepreneur. Born March 22, 1925, in Carleton Place, Ont. Died Dec. 31, 2011, in Kingston of cancer, aged 86.
Willard Hastie learned the art of survival from childhood, hunting and fishing to supplement the needs of his parents, Alexander and Emma Hastie, and six siblings during the Depression. When the Second World War offered an escape from hard times, he left school and enlisted as a teenager in the Canadian Army.
His elder brother Austin, a sergeant-major, warned him away from the infantry in favour of the less hazardous Signal Corps. Willard soon found that safety even in the Signal Corps was not guaranteed as he survived battles in Italy, France and the Netherlands.
When the action in Italy was over, Willard set sail for France on a crowded ship that had no room below decks. “Sleeping under the stars was the best cruise I could have imagined,” he said many times. Posted to the Netherlands, he rescued a young girl and returned her to her family, who were near starvation. He put his Depression-era hunting skills to work, shooting a deer for the family and keeping them supplied for the rest of his time in the region. He guarded prisoners in Germany for one year after V-E Day, returning to Canada in 1946.
Out of the army, he joined his family’s plumbing business in Carleton Place, Ont. But lugging bathtubs up stairs as houses were being modernized was not his idea of a career. He studied to become a realtor and used that knowledge to market the houses he built in Aylmer, Que.
He set up a shop to design and build devices for which he saw a market. Being an avid sailor, he knew the problem of monitoring the capacity of sanitary holding tanks aboard private yachts. His devices were installed on vessels built in the United States. When recreational campgrounds became popular, he designed a coin-operated shower system, but he never found a way to ensure that a well-lathered bather had enough small change when the time ran out.
In 1965, Willard married Ghislaine LeMay, an RCMP translator and former chanteuse on the French CBC television network. He spent his final 15 working years as a supervisor of physical plant operations at Algonquin College in Ottawa. His more predictable lifestyle allowed him to sail his yacht, the Will-G, from Ottawa’s Britannia Yacht Club, and sail various oceans on cruise ships. It also allowed him time to design and build a luxury waterfront home on the St. Lawrence River at Lansdowne, near Gananoque, Ont.
In his senior years, Willard suffered from diabetes and spent a year in hospital with C. difficile. A lingering cancer finally settled in his lungs. A lifetime non-smoker, he had accepted all the free cigarettes the Red Cross and other organizations could supply during wartime, and sold them on the black market to finance his postwar enterprises. Never a quitter, he played golf until the end of the 2011 season, having outlived most of his regular partners.
By Norman Avery, Willard’s golfing and sailing friend.