Members of the Chemainus Legion Branch 191 and the community are saluting Second World War vet Gordon Hughes for service above and beyond the call of duty and for his many great attributes.
Hughes died last Monday, June 3 at the age of 93 after a bout with esophagus cancer. He had previously beaten throat cancer more than seven years ago.
Born in Liverpool, England, Hughes came to Canada in 1956 and lived in St. Albert, Alberta where he and his wife Alma operated a dance studio. They relocated to Chemainus around 1995.
Chemainus Legion’s Wes Everitt noted Hughes was a signalman in the Royal Marine Navy Commandos and part of beach landing parties during the war. He served in Italy, the former Yugoslavia, Burma, Singapore and Hong Kong.
“Gordon was very dedicated to the Legion and he participated as a Colour Party member for many years and loved to talk to the school children about his service,” Everitt indicated. “He belonged to the Legion for a total of 30 years.”
“Gordon was a true gentleman,” added Legion 191 President Len Lavender. “He was a committed Legion member and also involved with several other community organizations. He was a great inspiration and mentor to me with my work on the Legion executive. I was very privileged and honoured for being associated with a gentleman of his character.”
“Whenever it came to any of our parades or Colour Party for the Legion, he was always there,” praised Legion member and former president Mike Beggs. “Always sharply dressed, no matter what.”
“That West Coast laid back style didn’t cut it with him,” agreed Legion member Don Gatward, who also noted Hughes’ dance moves were impressive – comparable to Fred Astaire.
“It was priceless,” he said.
“He’s a very classy guy. That generation of people from the old country, they had a certain way of doing things.”
Hughes also enjoyed his Sunday dinners, often indulging in roast beef at Gatward’s residence, and spent a great deal of time on the water.
“He loved to go fishing and ended up driving the boat because that’s what he liked to do,” Gatward pointed out. “He was in his element on the water. He was an avid sailor at one time.”
Chemainus Legion member Dave Munro, 82, had a lot in common with Hughes, who was his next door neighbour for six years as well. They were both signalmen and first responders.
Munro noted Hughes was once a firefighter in London, but nearly died while fighting an apartment blaze when a wall fell. Alma made him quit the fire department and “that’s when they made the decision to emigrate to Canada,” Munro indicated.
Munro pointed out Hughes was once selected to parachute into the former Yugoslavia as a commando, but the mission was changed and he never got that chance. The first guys on the mission got in serious difficulty and the decision was made to go in by boat.
Hughes made amends of sorts with a tandem jump at age 90 at Comox. Munro presented him with the wings red maple leaf to indicate he’d done a jump and had the training, but wasn’t part of the parachute battalion. Hughes proudly wore it on the left side of his uniform.
Hughes is survived by son Steve, 65, and adopted daughters Colleen Duits of Leduc, Alberta, and Patricia Barker of Calgary plus grandchildren Aysa Barker, Aiden Carter-Hughes, Isaac Carter-Hughes and Connor Lebrun.
“He was just proud of his service,” Steve said stood out for him about his dad. “That was probably the most constant thing. And him and mom loved dancing.”
”He was a wonderful man,” summed up Munro. “He was dedicated to the Legion and helping veterans. He was a very proud member of the Legion.”
“He’s proud to be a Canadian,” concurred Gatward. “His last trip to the old country was no more than a year and a half ago, and he was never one of those pompous Brits. He flew that Canadian flag off his patio and he was very proud of his adoptive country.”
Hughes was never quite the same after Alma died two years ago.
“I spent about three hours with him about a week before he passed away,” said Munro.
“In talking to him, he wanted to join Alma.”
Services for Hughes will be held on Saturday, June 29.