A 95-year-old decorated veteran of the Second World War accused last year of killing his 85-year-old roommate in a care facility has died in Kamloops.
John (Jack) Furman passed away on Jan. 28, said the executive director of the Greater Vernon Museum & Archives.
Ron Candy said he had no specific details on the circumstances of the last days of Mr. Furman, a Vernon resident honoured for his service during the Second World War in the American-Canadian Unit known as the Devil’s Brigade.
The elderly widower, who had no children or known relatives, was moved to an undisclosed Kamloops-area care facility after the Crown stayed charges against him in November after concluding he was unfit to stand trial.
Mr. Candy said he expected Mr. Furman would be remembered for how he spent his entire life, and not just the last few months when he was charged with second-degree murder in the death of William May.
“I like to think that [his] story will certainly be how Jack is remembered, revered. That will be what people remember of him; that’s what will rise to the surface,” Mr. Candy said in an interview.
“We’re all sad to hear he’s gone, but not surprised given his age,” said Mr. Candy, speaking of the community around the museum, who knew Mr. Furman as a regular jovial visitor.
During the war, Calgary-born Mr. Furman saw action in the Aleutians and Europe as part of an elite unit that during one intense campaign had a 77-per-cent casualty rate. In 1944, he received two bullet wounds from machine-gun fire, in his chest and neck. He recovered and later continued to fight. He moved to Vernon, B.C., with his wife in 1971.
But the national spotlight fell on him last year when he was prosecuted in the death of Mr. May on Aug. 18, not long after Mr. Furman had been moved to the Polson Special Care facility for treatment of dementia.
RCMP were called to the facility after the incident, and Mr. Furman was swiftly charged. Mr. May’s son has said police told him his father was asleep when attacked.
In November, the Crown announced it had concluded Mr. Furman was in a delusional state at the time of the killing and would likely have been found unfit for trial had proceedings been launched against him.
Interior Health, which is responsible for the care facility, declined to comment on the circumstances of Mr. Furman’s passing, citing privacy concerns. Neil MacKenzie, a spokesman for the criminal-justice branch, also said he had no details.
As Mr. Furman had no family, Mr. Candy said the circumstances of funeral services are unclear at this point. He said he hoped Mr. Furman’s medals might end up at the museum.
In the meantime, he said Mr. Furman may be honoured this year as part of a pending display of notable veterans in the community.
Mr. Candy said he first met Mr. Furman about six years ago when the veteran wandered in to tell his story. Subsequently, he talked about trying to secure some medals he said he were owed by the U.S. military, and eventually those honours came his way.
The museum director said he was always glad to see Mr. Furman at his door. “You knew, when Jack came toward you, the next 15 to 20 minutes would be enjoyable. He always had a smile on his face and a joke to tell,” he said.
In particular, he recalled occasions when Mr. Furman would hide behind his door, and call out, “I’m looking for the guy who thinks he’s in charge.”