Friday, 8 January 2021

George Joseph Sweanor

November 7, 1919 - January 3, 2021
George Sweanor, proud father, educator, and loyalist, passed away peacefully at home on January 3, 2021 at the age of 101, after a life very-well lived. The oldest of 3 siblings, George was born to George Edward Sweanor and Alice Mary McGirr on November 7, 1919 in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada. His family moved to Newmarket, then on to Owen Sound, Oshawa, Toronto and finally to Port Hope, where he graduated high school in 1937. During the next 3 years, George was employed by the Royal Bank of Napanee, at a starting annual salary of $400. He enlisted in the RCAF on August 4, 1941, trained as an Observer (becoming skilled as a navigator, bomb aimer and gunner), and was then shipped overseas in April 1942. He became part of 419 RCAF Squadron, Bomber Command in WWII. On January 6, 1943, after first meeting at a town hall dance in Leamington Spa, England, George married the love of his life, Joan Saunders. Less than 3 months later and during his 17th mission, George’s plane was shot down; he was captured by the Germans and remained a POW for 800 days. George was liberated April 29, flown to Britain on May 14 (reuniting with his wife and meeting his daughter Barbara for the first time), and returned to Canada on July 17, 1945. George remained with the RCAF for 25 years. After the war, he worked as a navigator and instructor, flew all over the Arctic with a joint USAAF/RCAF team to test fly the LF Loran and map vast uncharted areas, and assisted with the Korean Air Lift in 1952-53. In 1957, as Chief Ground Instructor in Centralia, George met a Luftwaffe pilot trainee who had, as a teenage flak gunner, crippled his bomber in WWII. They became good friends. George became Military Commander of the “PIN” sector, DEW Line in Cape Perry in 1962-63, and served his final posting in Colorado Springs at NORAD HQ, retiring in 1967. George quipped that he was selected to open NORAD’s Cheyenne Mountain site because he had the teeth to dig the hole.
George took many odd jobs while working on his bachelor’s degree and teaching certificate at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, and was subsequently hired to write the new modular curriculum and teach honor students in World History, Geography, and International Relations at Mitchell High School. After 12 years teaching, he retired for a second time in 1983. Early into retirement George wrote a book on his RCAF career: “It’s All Pensionable Time,” and became a founding member of the 971 Air Marshal Slemon RCAF Association Wing, serving as its newsletter editor for many years. George spent 12 years compiling a history of all Port Hope, Ontario veterans from the United Empire Loyalists through those serving in Afghanistan; he donated the work to the Port Hope Historical Society in 2011. As “Ye Old Inquisitive Scribe,” George produced over 200 insightful blogs on his experiences and musings, publishing his last one on October 30 of 2020. George also spent many years carefully researching his family’s genealogy, first delving through the extensive microfiche collection at the local Mormon Church and then searching church records in Canada and England. He has provided his descendents a priceless gift.
George started a stamp collection as a kid, and this pastime led to friendships around the world, an education in geography, and an impressive anthology. He was a man of many opinions which he expressed both in words and writings, starting with community news letters in the 50’s. George's opinions were often controversial, but they certainly provided for interesting discussions. Even in difficult times, George strove hard to provide for his family. He directed many family vacations, which typically included teaching moments on geology, archaeology, anthropology and the cosmos - experiences his daughters grew to appreciate as they got older. A champion of gender equality, George provided for, and promoted participation in, sports and education. As mayor of the military housing in St. Hubert, he ensured that girls got equal time to use the sports facilities and participate in team sports. Education was extremely important to George, and he encouraged all five daughters to push boundaries and have careers. George loved living in Colorado, where he resided in the same home for 57 years…. but his heart remained in Canada. George is predeceased by his parents, wife Joan, sister Ruth Filiatrault, brother Trevor, and grandson Braden Bruington. George is survived by his 5 daughters: Barbara Jagoda of Colorado Springs, Diane Edwards of Toronto, Canada, Valerie Bruington of Basalt, Patricia Sweanor of LaPorte and Linda Sweanor of Montrose, as well as 5 grandchildren, 2 great grandchildren and other relatives. In his long life George encountered many people who valued him as friend, teacher, and even respected adversary. He will be missed by many. Ever the navigator, George would appreciate the acknowledgment that he had begun his 102nd circuit around the sun. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to New Century Hospice in Colorado Springs, the Canadian War Museum (www.warmuseum.ca/support/) or to the charity of your choice. Given current circumstances, a private memorial for George will be held at a later date.

11 comments:

  1. I am so very sorry to hear this sad news. I never met George but we corresponded regularly and I have two copies of his book "It's All Pensionable Time". Even through knowing him only via correspondence and his 'Ye Old Scribe' newsletters, I liked and respected him. Rob Davis, Telford UK

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  2. George was my friend, hero and mentor. I'm going to miss our visits and watching 60 Minutes together. Chatting with him was like opening up a history book. I've learned so much from him. Thank you for being a true friend, George!

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  3. Beautiful!!! Im not crying (extreme sarcasm)! I have never been mentally pushwd to learn so many things as I was during the times I spent with George. He helped me rekindle the love I have for my own religion, and did it quite well rapidly enough I wasn't even really aware I was learning. I could only imagine having him as an actual educator! He is a special man with skills and knowledge beyond comparison. It has been a privilege to know him, and the family he raised to be beyond comparison just as he was.

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  4. What a wonderful tribute to a truly remarkable man! I received the news of his passing with a heavy heart, but I take solace in the fact that he led a long life filled with amazing experiences, and he had such a positive influence on so many lives. I feel blessed to have had the privilege of sitting down with Mr. Sweanor on a few occasions and talking to him about his experiences in WW2. Despite his advanced number of orbits around the sun, he related subtle details of his experiences as though they had happened yesterday, with humility and praise for his crew mates. I still cannot comprehend how those young men were able to repeatedly climb into airplanes and fly into battle, with death almost an eventual certainty, but I thank God that they did. I consider my copy of "It's All Pensionable Time" one of my prized possessions. Rest in peace, Mr. Sweanor.
    (Jim Depsky, West Hills, CA)

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  5. What a beautiful tribute to George from his amazing and beautiful daughters. I learned alot from George and we watched alot of CNN together. He will always be loved and never forgotten. He was a true hero in so many ways and will be missed alot. RIP MY FRIEND KNOWING YOU AND CARING FOR YOU WAS A TRUE HONOR.

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  6. I was a student of George's when he taught Honors History at Mitchell High School (and, coincidentally, of his daughter Barbara a few years prior). His mentorship and friendship played a large part in shaping who I came to be as an adult, and he remains one of the most influential figures, aside from my father, of my youth. I will sorely feel his loss, though I am comforted that he led a long, prosperous life. Thank you, Mr. Sweanor, for sharing your wit, insight, and incredible perspective of history with this humble student.

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  7. I have been reading George's letters for the last few years as I have been late in getting to know his blog. A remarkable individual and such a life-long learner! I will miss his letters. My condolences to his family who will, no doubt, miss him very much indeed.

    F. Hill Newmarket, Ontario

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  8. I was introduced to Sweanor's work by Larry Milberry when George was in his 90s.
    As a youngster I had read Paul Brickhill's books about WWII aviation, including The Great Escape. So the first piece that I read was George's first blog THE GREAT ESCAPE - 24 March 1944, which confirmed some of the "poetic licence" taken by Steve McQueen in the movie version of the event.
    The obit reveals information that is new to me: Sweanor was born in Sudbury. Sweanor was CGI in Centralia in 1957.
    I learned to fly RCAF Chipmunks in Centralia during the 1958 summer and didn't know of Sweanor. I lived in Sudbury for 30 years and didn't know of George Sweanor.
    George and I exchanged some emails. I was always struck by his breadth of expert knowledge and his willingness to share it. An outstanding teacher. His blogs are well worth reading. I hope that Ye Olde, Inquisitive, Scribe will be maintained.
    Per ardua ad astra.
    T. Semadeni, Ontario, Canada

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  9. Condolences to George’s family and friends. He was a great writer and I’m so honored to have connected with him though emails. He gifted our family with a piece of our history in one of his blog entries by detailing the story of my Great Uncle’s death in WWII. He also gifted me a wonderful tribute to my son when he was born. I will miss corresponding with George. He was a thoughtful, insightful person.
    J.Kennedy

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  10. As a follower of his blog and a researcher of his former RCAF squadron, 419 Moose squadron I was saddened to learn of his passing. I did not have the chance to meet Mr. Sweanor although I was fortunate enough to meet and be in contact with other Moosemen who like he had been POWs. From what I saw and learned from these men and from what I read in the Ye Old Scribe blog they all were not only brothers in arms but also men of determination and strength. Since January of 2020 we have lost all those who I knew to be the last of the original members of the World War Two squadron. Chronicling F/O George Sweanor and the other members of his former squadron drew me close to them. Each passing I am reminded of words of P/O John Magee's poem 'High Flight'

    Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
    And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
    Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
    Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things.....

    Dan Logan

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  11. Most sincere condolences to Mr. Sweanor's family. I was a student of his at Mitchell back in the 1970s and he kindled my love of History to such an extent that I (eventually) went on to graduate school and became a college history professor. I was so happy to run into him at an Office Depot a couple of decades ago to thank him personally for the impact he had on my life. And I know there were many others who felt the same way.

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