Douglas Gordon: Great-grandfather. Veteran. Storyteller. Husband. Born March 19, 1923, in Lachute, Que.; died Nov. 13, 2019, in Cornwall, Ont.; of complications after a fall; aged 96.
Doug Gordon was the first child born to Isabel and Archie on a dairy farm outside Lachute, Que. He attended a one-room schoolhouse, where he was, by his own account, an uninspired student. Yet he won the prize in third grade for perfect attendance. This was my grandfather in a nutshell; no matter the weather, no matter his own preference, he always showed up.
After high school, Doug volunteered with the Air Force. As a pilot, he flew 99 combat sorties with 440 Squadron, the last on Remembrance Day, 1944. In the decades after, his stories trickled out to his family.
In one of those stories, his squadron set out to bomb a German destroyer in the English Channel, and his plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire. His CO told him to bail out, but Doug nursed his plane to a landing just short of the airfield in England. He later explained that the water was too cold. Over a glass of wine in his son’s kitchen, he admitted that he’d been reluctant to ruin his new watch and leather boots. All Doug’s wartime stories included that mixture of pragmatism and near-perfect attention to detail.
When he returned to Canada, Doug continued to show up, in the way he always did, as if it was the only option, and certainly not something that he had chosen or should be thanked for. When he discovered that his little sister had been riding his bike while he was in Europe, he walked into town and bought her a new one. He carried it all the way home, so it wouldn’t be ruined by the slush of a Quebec winter.
In 1950, he married Yvonne Bedard, a Mount Allison chemistry graduate he met in Lachute. They settled in Cornwall, Ont., and raised three boys while he worked as a leasing manager at Cornwall Motor Sales. He was an usher and member of the board of trustees at the United church. Later, he fried hamburgers and scooped rocky road ice cream when his granddaughters were young, so they could escape the chaos of the school lunchroom. His basement workshop was always a source of small engineering wonders, from model planes to a homemade repair kit for one granddaughter’s sagging couch.
Doug taught all of his descendants about service by example, taking a granddaughter with him as he delivered Meals on Wheels. At 92, it became too much – he was delivering meals to seniors as much as two decades his junior.
In the final decades of her life, Yvonne lived with dementia and Doug remained stoically protective. He worked tirelessly to support her, learning to make her specialties in the kitchen and guiding her through chaotic events, such as family weddings. They were true partners, raising three sons who, as adults, feel at home cooking and folding laundry. After Yvonne died, Doug remained devoted to his family: He would play board games and read to his great-grandsons, and share stories over Sunday dinners.
His commitment to serving his community; in ways large and small, continue to push us all to do a little better.
Lisa Gordon-Norman is Doug’s granddaughter.
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