OMM CD SQN LDR (RET)
On October 11, 2012 Don Gordon, age 81, passed away with his wife by his side, at Hardy View Lodge in Grand Forks after a long illness.
Don was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba to William Copp and Alice Maie Gordon in 1931. The family moved to Rossland, B.C when he was 9 years old, to join their father who was working at Consolidated Mining and Smelting in Trail.
He graduated from the Trail High School in 1950 and attained the highest mark in mathematics in the Province of B.C. He was active with the Army Cadets, rising to the rank of Captain.
He went on to attend University of British Columbia but with his love of airplanes, considered the RCAF as a future career. Don joined the RCAF and began pilot training at Claresholm, Alberta, winning the J.D. Siddely Junior Pilots Trophy for the highest mark in the class on graduation.
His first posting was to Greenwood, Nova Scotia to train on the Lancaster Bomber and hence to Comox, British Columbia. On a temporary posting he flew the arctic ice patrol and Nike missile trials in Churchill, Manitoba. Here he met his wife, Ann, who worked as a Lab Technician for Northern Defense Research Laboratory.
Following their marriage in 1955 Don was transferred to Trenton, Ontario, to train as a flight instructor on the Harvard aircraft. The Commonwealth Training Program had a base at Claresholm, Alberta where Don became one of their flight instructors. This program was disbanded in1958 and Don was transferred into the Radar Detection Unit in Quebec and Falconbridge, Ontario until 1960.
In 1960 he began training on the mighty Argus aircraft, tasked with Atlantic submarine reconnaissance for Maritime Air Command in Greenwood, NS. This four engine aircraft with a crew of 18 was loaded with “black boxes” for detection of all types of ships and submarines. During the Cuban Missile Crisis he was flying over the Russian ship carrying the missiles aimed at the U.S. when the orders came from Russia for the ships to return to Russia, thus ending the crisis.
Don gained many accolades for his innovations, inventions, unbroken records and expertise in submarine detection on the Argus. After setting records for submarine detection during maritime military exercises in Florida he was invited to join the U.S. Navy as a Commander. When the proposal did not include his whole crew, he declined.
Following a promotion to Squadron Leader, a two-year tour at Headquarters in Ottawa was followed by Don’s last flying tour in 1970 as Base Operations Officer and then captain of the Hercules aircraft out of Namao north of Edmonton, Alberta.
The Hercules tour took Don all over the world performing many roles for NATO. At the end of the Arab-Israeli war in 1973 he was appointed United Nations Airlift Commander to set up the UN Emergency Force base at Ismailiya, Egypt to ensure a complete cease fire was observed on both sides. He was responsible for regular arrival of Hercules flights supplying peace keepers, food and emergency items. On one occasion he entertained President Anwar Sadat who came to greet the Canadian forces.
Don was active in the Namao base becoming president of the Community Minor Hockey Association, providing 300 kids from 6 to 16 with the ability to hone their skills. He spent endless hours flooding outdoor rinks, aided by the base fire department as well as on the phone organizing other events.
For his outstanding contribution to his military community he was awarded the Order of Military Merit, OMM in 1974, presented to him by the then Governor General Jules Leger at Rideau Hall in Ottawa.
In 1975 Don took early retirement from the RCAF after 9,571 hours of military flying experience. Later that year accepted the MOT position of Airport Manager in Watson Lake, Yukon and relocated the family.
Two years later he accepted the position of Operations Manager at the Edmonton Municipal Airport until his retirement in 1996. During the 20 years in Edmonton he developed the Namao Flying Club where he taught many eager young people to fly and obtain their pilots license. Working with son Bob assisted in the development of the technical engine adjustment for the conversion of small aircraft engine to use “auto gas” instead of avgas. They won the “Innovation in Aircraft Technical Development” award.
With all three children on their own and well established, it was time to find a warmer place to retire. Grand Forks had been near a childhood haunt of Don’s and his wife agreed to settle here in 1997. His airport knowledge was valuable to the city when the proposal to install night lighting for night medivac was approved. He assisted the City Engineer to establish the correct location for the lighting.
He leaves to grieve his wife Ann of 57 years; daughter Alyson and husband Kerry of Smithers, British Columbia; son Bob and wife Gladys of Calgary Alberta; son Cameron of Edmonton, Alberta; and granddaughter Natalie from St Albert, Alberta; three sisters, Diane of Sydney, British Columbia, Mearle and Margaret of Spokane Washington; and, brother Bryan of Ottawa, Ontario. His oldest son David A. Gordon of Edmonton predeceased his father in 1980.
It is with deep appreciation we extend our thanks to the doctors, nurses and care giving staff at Hardy View Lodge who provided Don with loving care during his last days.
To friends and neighbours who sent cards, flowers, baking, phone calls and visits, our deepest appreciation.
Grand Forks Funeral Home had care of arrangements.