Fanfare for a WWII veteran celebrating 100 years
Celebrating 100 years of life is a major milestone and for one WWII fighter pilot and veteran, friends and community members came together to honour his lifetime of contributions.
It’s a birthday party deserving of a regimental march. As the bagpipe played Friday, friends and those who heard about Ernest Allen’s big day came with signs and balloons in hand, to cheer and sing outside the Stittsville retirement home, for a war veteran who joined the century club.
“I’ve known him all my life he was my dad's best friend,” says Karen Whiteside, who organized the surprise event. “Ernest started off as a fighter pilot in WWII in England. He flew the Spitfire among other planes.”
Allen adds that when he was in German and France, he flew the Typhoon, calling it “quite the machine.”
Whiteside posted details about Allen to social media, and said the response from the community was overwhelming.
Along with receiving hundreds of cards created by children across the capital, Lisa Cormier and members from Free Riders Without Borders, a motorcycle family comprised of veterans and civilians who support veterans, arrived from Trenton Ont., to gift Allen with a handmade quilt.
“It’s a hug to all the veterans as a thank you and a reminder that people care,” says Cormier, the group's founder. “The quilt has two flags on it because he was born in Britain and it has the Canadian flag because he obviously fought with the Canadians … the quilt is so that he knows that what he’s done for us hasn’t gone unnoticed and that it’s very important to most of us.”
After the war, Allen left the army and his birthplace of England, and moved to Boston Mass., where he would become a photographer. In 1951, at the onset of the Korean War, he left the U.S. and came to Canada and joined the Royal Canadian Air Force as a flying instructor.
“The log book shows he flew probably over twenty different planes,” says Sam Spataro, a friend of more than 10 years. “Most of us probably won’t get to one hundred, so I just admire the time I’ve been privileged to be with him and it’s quite amazing just the people who want to say thank at the fact he was a war veteran.”
Throughout life, Allen enjoyed soccer and curling but talking about golf, and his six hole-in-one’s, that brings a glimmer to his eye.
“That’s a tough game,” says Allen. “I played all over the place; my handicap when I was 70 was one.”
Allen remained in Canada and worked for the government until his retirement. His wife, Wynn, passed away in 2007; the couple did not have children.
For a man who was born during the same year as the birth of insulin-use, his advice to anyone who asks, is humanitarian.
“When you think of all the transitions that civilizations have gone through, it’s hard to imagine that one country wants to be bigger than another country.”
And Allen’s secret to longevity is simple.
“Keep running,” he says with a smile. “When I was five years old I said they’re not going to catch me and I’ve run all my life.”
So far, his long and storied life has been nothing short of a marathon.