Royal Canadian Air Force. Huronia Wing #441. It’s that low, flat building on Highway 90 with the red aeroplane parked at its side yard.
Most of us have driven past it for years, but the energy that has kept it alive, bills paid, serving its community is second only to the commitment that its members took into World War Two.
I knew very little about this building and its occupants until I became president of Christmas Cheer in 2005. That’s the year I received an invitation to Pot Luck dinner and received a cheque for $1000 for Christmas Cheer. The same evening the members presented similar cheques to Roy Randell of Salvation Army and Dennis Willer of Barrie Food Bank.
Turns out there is so much more behind this dwindling group of personnel who are proud alumni of the Royal Canadian Air Force. Honouring their comrades during Remembrance Day Services, supporting activities of air cadets, earning money with pot luck dinners, bingos, and membership dues, paying the upkeep on a building by renting it out to other veterans associations… it’s a daunting task for dwindling numbers of men and women who served this country well.
Earlier this year, the group’s president Gord Steane passed away. Other executive members rallied to keep newsletters going out, treasurers reports up to date, membership activities intact. Like so many organizations, much of the work fell to very few people. It was a painful decision Wing members had to make on the day they decided to put the building on Highway 90 up for sale. It had been their home since 1981.
Wing member George Mitchell says the group lost its secretary and treasurer and membership declined to under 80 before the executive put it to a vote and the Wing decided it had to make big decisions.
Bills like snow removal, insurance, utilities made it next to impossible to keep up with expenses. Simple For Sale letters went up on the club’s outside notice board and it was a matter of weeks before a car dealership purchased the property.
However, this is not the end of The Wing, Huronia 441! Not by a long shot! But it’s the beginning of a new way of carrying out activities. In fact, the Huronia Wing is the second last in Ontario to own its own building.
First order of business will be a middle-of-the-night move of the T33 aircraft to the Air Academy at Base Borden. Equipment from Trenton will load the aircraft onto a carrier and police escort will shut down the highway while the aircraft makes a final journey.
Ownership of the building was transferred last Friday, November 7. With revenues in its coffers, the Wing will set out to serve its members and keep alive the spirit of generosity that has served this country so well. They held a meeting last week in the board room at Army Navy Air Force Club in Barrie and decided to move all operations there, continuing to function as a separate group. Tenants, the Korean Vets, and Kempenfelt Pipes and Drums, will also move their activities to Army Navy Air Force building in Barrie.
The Wing, with Bob Coxon as its representative, attended Remembrance Day Services for Beavers, Cubs, Boy Scouts and Venturers and their families on Monday night at Emma King Public School with 200 youngsters, parents, and veterans attending. Venturer Chris Nichol talked about his perspective of Remembrance Day; Mitchell Armstrong read John McRae’s poem, In Flanders Fields and Scout Dan Walsh read a poem remembering World War One. Jane Coxon, 441 Wing liaison with the Scouts read “Why Wear a Poppy” and Wing member Bob Coxon concluded with the poem High Flight. A video and words from brought the real story of war to all present. Particular attention touched the lives of 97 soldiers killed in Afghanistan. Trumpeter John Hennebray and Piper Adrian Stocks brought a beautiful evening to a close. The Wing lives on in the hearts of everyone who heard them on Monday night.
Both the Ladies Auxiliary and members of RCAF Huronia Wing have given us all an example of dealing with adversity in a positive way. Its past drives its present and The Wing has been an important part of our community. It’s wonderful that it will continue to do so, using the facility of another association of war vets who have opened their doors.
Thanks, Huronia Wing! Glad you’ll continue to fly!