Leading up to Thanksgiving weekend, local volunteers of the Civil Air Rescue Emergency Service (CARES Niagara) received a surprise at their training session when member Ron Turnbull’s mother showed up — and a reason to be grateful.
She had no intention of training as a “ground homing specialist,” for the search and rescue organization, which was the evening’s focus, but to present the charitable group with a significant donation of $15,000.
In presenting the cheque to Stewart Harris, CARES’ president, Loree Turnbull said, “This is in loving memory of my husband, Flight Lieutenant Richard (Dick) Turnbull. The gift is for you to continue your work and training, to help purchase supplies necessary, and for putting up with my son for the past five years.”
During the Second World War, Dick Turnbull enlisted with the Royal Canadian Air Force in Nova Scotia. He was posted to wireless training in Calgary, followed by bomber and gunnery training along Lake Erie. He was then sent to Yorkshire, England to serve with 405 Squadron, flying with Wellington bombers.
After flying 32 sorties, on Jan. 17, 1943 his aircraft crashed into the North Sea. He, and one other crew member, survived, climbing into an orange raft. Adrift for some 16 hours, a destroyer spotted them for rescue. Learning the ship was headed to France, the two opted to wait for a nearby submarine which took them to the Isle of Sheppey on the east coast of England. As he recovered from his injuries, a German prisoner of war, a surgeon, operated on Dick’s face. After skin grafts, he was able to return to Toronto, where three days later he married Loree Garette.
With the story of his father’s service in the air force, and his rescue, Ron Turnbull has always had an interest in aviation search and rescue. Joining CARES Niagara was a way to honour his father’s memory, and his mother Loree’s donation was her way to support the men and women who volunteer to rescue others.
“The gift allows CARES volunteers to focus on training, rather than to give precious time to fundraising,” said Harris. “This is truly a gift for us to be thankful for.”
CARES directors plan to make a copy of Flight Lieutenant Turnbull’s photo to display on a plaque to be mounted in the hallway, as a “thankful” reminder.
In recognition of the search unit’s operations, search coordinator Terry Nord reported that in the past season, CARES Niagara participated in four major searches, requiring crews to be away from home, family and employment, several days at a time. There were also several searches involving several hours, or a day-long operation.
CARES Niagara was a founding member of the national organization, Civil Air Search And Rescue Association (CASARA). All members are volunteers, trained to professional standards established by the Royal Canadian Air Force.
The motto ingrained in every aspect of operations is, “That others may live.” As a registered charity, CARES relies on donations to operate its training facility, vehicle and aircraft.
For information, or to volunteer, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or the website, ontario.casara.ca.