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September 9, 1920 – May 23, 2020. F/L 419 Squadron RCAF WWII.

 albert wallace

Pilot Officer Albert Wallace wearing his air gunner’s brevet.

With great sadness tempered by the joy and thankfulness that we had our dad and grandpa for as long as we did, we announce that he died of natural causes on May 23, 2020, in his 100th year and on the anniversary of our mom's death. He left us to join our dear mom, his beloved wife of 62 years, Mary Juniper and our sister Susan. He is reunited with his parents Robert and Kathleen, sisters Eleanor and Betty, brothers-in-law Ed and Chuck, sister-in-law Marjorie and nephew Chuck Jr. Albert is survived by his daughters Patricia, Anne and Barbara (George). He was the much-loved and always proud grandpa of Darren, Katie (Jamie) and Bradley (Marietta) and great-grandpa to sweet Juniper Belle. He is also survived by his nieces Janice, Jennifer, Nancy, Kathy and South Floridians, Nancy, Suzanne and Deborah. Dad was born at home in Toronto on September 9, 1920 to Robert Wallace and Kathleen Campbell. He enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force at age 20 and entered the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. In his words, "I just wanted to help out and help do my little thing for the war effort. That was all." Those words epitomize the way Dad lived his life. Humble to a fault. He trained as an air gunner at No. 1 Bombing and Gunnery School in Jarvis, Ontario. He was awarded his King's Commission to pilot officer in September 1942 and began his active service overseas. Dad joined up with 419 "Moose" Squadron, Canadian 6 Group as part of RAF Bomber Command, stationed at Middleton St. George, Durham, England. On his 16th air operation to Germany, pilot officer Wallace's Halifax bomber was shot down over Duisberg on May 13, 1943. Two of his fellow crew members did not survive. He was captured on the ground and eventually taken to Stalag Luft III (the prison camp made famous by the Great Escape) for the duration of the war, including two forced marches across Germany in the final months. No wonder he was such a survivor. He worked as a "penguin" during his time at the prison camp, helping to dispose of sand taken from the tunnels. Dad later reflected, "Being a prisoner of war was unfortunate, but I was a survivor. Would I do it again? Why sure I would, yeah, if I was 21, yeah, sure I would." And I don't doubt it for a minute. It's no wonder we always thought he'd live forever.

After the war, Dad re-joined Loblaws where he went on to enjoy a long and successful career. He loved people and as an executive, was never too busy to stop and talk to any employee, no matter how junior – one of his many strengths that made him so loved and respected. It was also at Loblaws where, as store manager in 1946, Dad met and fell for our mom Mary as she grocery shopped. Together they raised four daughters, two dogs and a host of turtles, birds and goldfish. Loved by all who knew him, Dad lived his life fully and thankfully. He lived independently until a year ago when he moved into Sunnybrook Veterans. Prior to that, he volunteered weekly at Sunnybrook for over 25 years to support other vets. He read voraciously. And until he couldn't, he golfed avidly and cottaged weekly. In the spirit of "Lest we Forget", he participated in the Memory Project through which he spoke of his wartime experiences to students and to anyone who wanted to listen.

In appreciation of the assistance he and other prisoners of war received from the Canadian Red Cross in Germany during the war, he donated blood for as long as they would let him. He joined a seniors' hiking club in his eighties. He ate a lot of candy, took a lot of photos and swore that a banana a day was one of the secrets to his longevity. He was ordinary and extraordinary at the same time. He served as president of the Toronto branch of the RCAF ex-prisoner of war association for 10 years and was an active member for many more. He was also a member of the Ontario branch of the Aircrew Association. He and Mom travelled to attend many ex-PoW reunions. My favorite reunion was the one marketed using the tag line: "Stay Alive 'til 95." Always a sense of humour, those lads - another key to their survival I'm convinced. Dad has been cremated and honoured in a private family service. We will host a celebration of his exceptional life at a future date, likely next year.

We want to acknowledge the excellent nursing care Dad received at Sunnybrook Veterans over the past year, especially at the end. Special thanks to Leslie and Nicole, who facilitated video chats with us when COVID-19 prevented us from visiting. In lieu of flowers or donations and even though Dad would be the first to say he wasn't much of a drinker, please hoist a cocktail of your choosing to him with the toast (in full voice): "Here's to Albert".

Published in the Toronto Star on May 30, 2020.

Al was a member of the Canadian Aviation Historical Society and joined in 1991 as member no. 3924. When the Toronto Chapter CAHS was awarded a Lancaster Bomber Membership by the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum and which included a flight in one of only two examples actively flying in the world, the selection of the person to have the privilege for the prestigious ride was debated but soon resolved. It was decided to award it to a RCAF veteran who in addition experienced an exceptional war-time hazard during his active service as noted above. Our choice was Albert Wallace who not only served in the RCAF, met our criteria and was continuing his spare time volunteering at the Sunnybrook Veterans Hospital. He was awarded the flight on May 1, 2016 at the Annual Dinner meeting of the CAHS Toronto Chapter. The magic flight was made on August 28, 2016 and it was his second flight in a Lancaster Bomber. His first flight in a Lancaster Bomber was for his repatriation to the UK after gaining his freedom from the POW camp in 1945.

By S. Benner