Royal Canadian Navy
In the spring of 1942 and just shy of 17, Don enlisted in the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve. Thanks to a phony letter of signed permission from his mother, he made it past the recruiting officer. Despite the fact that his parents were not on board with the idea, he ventured off to sea.
As a junior seaman and gunner, he spent three years on the defensively-equipped merchant ships (DEMS) zigzagging across the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans delivering supplies during the Second World War.
"Moving across the Atlantic Ocean, at only eight knots, we were sitting ducks, for the German U-boats," says Don.
Over a period of three years, he saw more than 40 allied ships sink, fortunately he was never hit by a German U-boat or fighter bomber.
In one 1944 convoy, a ship sank with another man named Donald Stewart on board, and Don's parents were notified that their son had died at sea. With no mail delivery, Don did not keep in touch with his parents and so they were unaware of this error.
At the end of the war, he came home unannounced and shocked his father, a policeman who just happened to be at the train station meeting the soldiers returning.
"He usually didn't show much emotion, but that day he hugged me long and hard. I will never forget that feeling – there wasn't much talking," recalls Don.
His focus today as President of the Veterans & Community Residents Council, is to advise hospital administration in a constructive manner on issue related to the welfare of residents living in L-wing and K-wing, Canada's largest veterans care facility.
Back home in British Columbia Don served as Legion Branch President in both Penticton and Kamloops. He has been a proud and active member of the Royal Canadian Legion for sixty-eight years.
Friendships are very important to Don and at the Veterans Centre he keeps busy socially whether it's dinner out in the community, a Legion meeting in Niagara Falls or simply time together with his comrades in the Blythwood Social Club, a pub located onsite for residents and family members to socialize over a beverage.
Originally from the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, Don is the proud father of eight children, fifteen grandchildren and three great grandchildren.