Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Someone you should know...

...who helped you know not only him, but all his mates as well: Charley Fox:

In the fall of 1945, a train carrying wartime troops from the campaign to liberate Europe delivered a 25-year-old air force veteran to the platform in Guelph, Ont. Flush with victory over the Luftwaffe, Charley Fox came home with one of the most distinguished air combat records of the Second World War -- 222 operational missions and two Distinguished Flying Crosses, as well as credit for taking Germany's most celebrated officer out of the war. He returned to his wife and son and the department store job his employers had held for him. There, he received an unexpected visit from the mother of one of his childhood chums, Andy Howden, killed in the air war overseas. The distraught woman grabbed Fox by the shoulders and shook him.

"Why my Andy?" she cried, "and not you!"

"Mrs. Howden, I don't know why not me," he replied trying to console the woman. So deep was the effect of this encounter that Fox committed himself to recounting the stories of fellow Canadian veterans. Eventually, his crusade to inform school children, historical societies and serving troops became known as Torch Bearers Canada. His sporty Saab with its flaming torch emblem on its bumpers has zigzagged across the province, delivering him to more speaking engagements than he flew sorties. He has spoken from the heart without fanfare and without a speaking fee. He has never stopped answering Mrs. Howden.

Over the weekend, his "Why not me" mission came to an end. On Saturday, Fox drove from the Tillsonburg airstrip to join fellow members of the Canadian Harvard Aircraft Association for brunch. He never made it, dying in a car crash just south of the airport. His CHAA friends lamented that at 88, Charley still had lots planned in life.

Every veteran I know remembers his wartime friends - some privately, and some publicly, but they all remember and pay tribute. Charley Fox not only remembered and honoured his friends, he made sure others did as well with his wonderfully-named Torchbearers project. Well done, sir.

Update: From a tribute in The Telegraph:

At the time of his death Fox was in the process of telling his story and those of other veterans in a book entitled Why Not Me? His family hopes to complete the work.

Charley Fox died at the wheel of his car in southern Ontario on October 18 while driving from a meeting at the local airport to attend lunch with his Harvard Association colleagues. At his funeral, a formation of nine Harvards, accompanied by a Spitfire and a Hurricane, flew over in salute.


Blogger Dave in Pa. said...

A remarkable man and a remarkable life. Mr. Fox deserves the highest accolade, in war and peace, the Citizen Soldier.

2:41 p.m., October 22, 2008  
Blogger David M said...

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 10/23/2008 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the check back often.

11:58 a.m., October 23, 2008  

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