Cecil Thomas Gleason was born September 10, 1920, in Ottawa, Ontario, son of John Thomas Gleason (1886-1943) & Mary Anastasia O’Connor (1894-1982). He passed away on Saturday, March 16, 2019 at the age of 98 years.
There were eight children in the Gleason clan, Michael Arnold, Cecil Thomas, Thomas O’Connor, Mary Muriel, Mary Marjorie, Edward Redmond, Bernice Helen, and Patrick Joseph.
Cec had many fond memories of his own dad, which he often shared with us.Tom was a long standing member of the Ottawa Police force; he was a good man and an awesome father. He kept the beat on the streets, cared for his neighbours, and watched over his own family with love. Tom built ice rinks in the back yard, took the kids to football games, and to visit his own father on the farm outside of Ottawa, near Buckingham QC. Tom Gleason died way too young, at the age of 57 years.
“Nanny”, Cec’s mom, held down the fort after that. She was little, but she was fierce, and she kept the spirit alive at 59 Blackburn Avenue for many more years. We all have such fond memories of Nanny bustling around, doing chores, making dinner, carrying loads of laundry up and down from the cellar, steeping tea. The house was always full of people & activity, and there were no flies on her. A wee nip of whiskey which she hid under her bed, kept her going to the ripe age of 88 years.
Cec attended St. Joseph’s school, and St. Patrick’s College, in Ottawa. He played football for St. Pat’s, and spent many hours at the Ottawa Rowing club with his brother Arnold. Cec graduated from St. Pat’s in 1938, obtaining Junior Matriculation standing, and was awarded the “Doran Trophy”, an annual award given to the student who best combines athletic ability, scholastic standing, school leadership and popularity.
After high school, Cec worked for the Department of Mines & Resources for two years. Just prior to his 20th birthday, he enlisted with the Royal Canadian Air Force, although he’d never even been up in a plane in his life. After initial training & boot camp, he was assigned to the BCATP (British Commonwealth Air Training Program), and spent many hours training new students from all over the world, on various types of aircraft, in various air base training locations across Canada. His logbooks are meticulously recorded, with hours spent in the air.
These flying days were possibly the most exhilarating times of his life, as he never seemed to forget the details about flying high above the clouds and maneuvering an airplane. It’s like riding a bicycle, so he would always say!
On July 1, 1940, Cec began his military career and initial training program in Toronto, ON, after which he was sent to Elementary Flying Training School (EFTS) at Windsor Mills, QC, to train on the Fleet-Finch. He did his Service Flying Training (SFTS) on the Harvard & Yale, at Dunnville, ON, and received his wings on February 10, 1941. He then took Flight Instructor Training at the Central Flying School in Trenton, ON.
April 1941, nine months after enlisting, Cec was posted to his first position as a flying instructor, at SFTS in Dauphin, MB, for six months, mostly instructing students on a Harvard. It was here that he met Pearl Stadnek, who was working as a waitress in a summer resort in Clear Lake National Park, MB. Pearl was a farm girl from Arborg, MB, a family of 12 girls and 3 boys. After visiting the farm, Cec often reminisced about the differences in living conditions, between 17 people living in a farmhouse out on the prairies without running water, and city life in Ottawa!
The couple was married on November 24, 1941 at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Winnipeg, MB. Cec was stationed to SFTS in Yorkton, SK, for seven months, instructing on a Cessna Crane.
In May 1942, Cec was stationed to EFTS Virden, MB, where he trained pilots on the Tiger Moth. John Bruce arrived in October 1942, and the family lived in Virden until the end of 1943.
A special memory for Cec during this time, was when his older brother Arnold, received his wings. In June, 1943, Cec flew from Virden to Saskatoon to the wings ceremony to pin Arnold’s wings. It was the last time that the two brothers saw each other. Arnold went overseas to join a Bomber Command unit, and in November 1944, he was killed when the Halifax bomber he was flying, crashed near Yorkshire, England.
In January 1944, Cec was stationed to EFTS Neepawa, MB, where the family lived for seven months, and the second addition to the family, Bonnie Pearl, arrived in June 1944.
The family moved between stations at Davidson, SK; Trenton, ON; and Pendleton, ON, prior to the termination of the BCATP at the end of March 1945.
In April 1945, BCATP flying officers were sent overseas to help out in the war efforts. But, shortly after Cec arrived in England, the war ended, and Canadian servicemen returned home in droves. Cec often recalled the difference between the comfortable and roomy ride on the ship over to England, as opposed to the more than packed conditions on the way home. But it was a glorious time for all Canadian military servicemen to be returning home, so it was quite a ride. Brother Pat recalls seeing an article that Cec sent back to Ottawa, from the Winnipeg Tribune, with a picture of crowds of people on the train platform awaiting the arrival of the servicemen from overseas. There was also a picture taken of Cec, with Pearl and Bruce!
Pearl and the children lived in Winnipeg, MB, with Pearl’s sister and husband, while Cec was overseas. When Cec returned, they remained in Winnipeg until Michael Arnold was born in June 1947. Then they moved eastward once again, landing in Pembroke, ON to operate a bowling alley for a few years. Bruce recalls living above the bowling alley, and being old enough to help out, as chief “pin setter”… obviously way before automation kicked in. Cecil Thomas Junior was born in Pembroke in September 1949.
In 1951, Cec was re-assigned to the RCAF, due to Canada’s involvement in the Korean War. He was stationed in Vancouver, BC and Trenton, ON for Flying Instruction and Standards Training. But, due to some medical issues with vertigo, it was determined that flying was not an option, so he retired from the RCAF in late 1951.
Pearl and the children had stayed in Arborg, MB during this time, as Pearl was expecting once again. Robert Joseph arrived in August 1951. The family all moved back to Ontario, where Cec dabbled in real estate. Mary Teresa arrived in October 1954, while they were living in Thorold.
Cec began working with the St. Lawrence Seaway Authority in 1958, on construction crews, then as an inspector on the Thorold Tunnel, as well as a linesman on the Welland Canal. The family moved to St. Catharines, where the last child, Christine Noreen was born in November 1958. St. Catharines remained home for the longest period ever … almost 50 years!
Cec and Pearl had a busy life with their seven children. And soon enough 13 grandchildren started to appear: Whitney, Joe, Stephanie, Christian, Mark, Dawn, Dana, Dianna, Michael, Gregg, Marnie, Heather, and Nick. Next were 18 great grandchildren: Malik & Stephanie, Brandon, Sam, Maddy & Jack, Evie & Ellie, Liam & Ava, Emma, Evan & Thea, Neo & Ani, Lincoln, Pearl & Opal. One great-great grandchild so far, Lucas
Everyone remembers Cec as being a very strategic card player, whether it be cribbage, bridge, euchre, but mostly poker. Stories abound of poker games at work on the Welland Canal, while the guys waited for the boats to come in, followed by more poker games in the rec-room at home. Cec also loved to bet on the ponies, “the sport of kings”. He frequented many of the racetracks around the Niagara region and further afield. Whenever asked about his luck at the races, he’d often reply, “You win some, you lose some”!
Cec loved to cook as well, and would often be found in the kitchen, while Pearl was busy at the sewing machine. He made delicious omelets, roast beef and potatoes, and “soup de jour”. He loved to eat, although he never seemed to gain a pound! Cec was an avid reader, a crossword fanatic, and he was passionate about watching football, hockey, baseball, or golf on TV.
Cec retired in 1984 after 25 years with the Seaway. After retirement, Cec & Pearl were “snowbirds”. They bought a retirement place in Pompano Beach, Florida, in the same park as Bruce and Bev. They enjoyed winters down there, plenty of sunshine and relaxation, playing cards, and other activities. We all enjoyed visiting them in their home away from home.
Cec was a long-standing member of the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 24, St. Catharines, for over 60 years! Even when he moved out west to Calgary, after Pearl passed away in 2005, he kept up his legion membership in St. Catharines. He enjoyed perusing the Legion magazine, to keep in touch with what was going on. He didn’t frequent the legion much anymore, he said his drinking days were over. But when asked about his flying days, he would reminisce at length with a sparkle in his eye.
We are truly blessed to have had our father/grandfather around for such a long time. He always maintained a positive attitude about life; he was an inspiration for us all. His quirky little sayings reflected his character and will be rooted in our memories forever. “Every day is a bonus” (don’t take life for granted), “You can’t cry over spilt milk” (don’t waste time stressing about things that you can’t change), “Another day, another dollar” (be happy with what you have), “One Day at a Time” (take it easy, enjoy), “No News is Good News” (don’t worry about things that might happen), “Time flies the older you get” (live every day while you’re young). He was a patient, kind, and loving soul … a true gentleman.
On March 16, 2019, in his 99th year, Flying Officer, Cecil Thomas Gleason, took his final flight on the wings of an eagle, from Calgary, AB to the “Pearly” Gates, while in the company of his two daughters who bid him farewell, singing one of his favourite tunes, “When Irish Eyes are Smiling”. It was heartbreaking to say good-bye, but we knew he must be anxious to join Pearl once again. Their legacy will live on.
We love you Dad, and until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand!
Bruce, Bonnie (in spirit), Michael, Cecil, Robert, Teresa & Noreen
If friends so desire, memorial tributes may be made directly to the Royal Canadian Legion (86 Aird Place, Ottawa, ON, K2L 0A1; 1-888-556-6222; https://www.legion.ca/) or the Veterans Food Bank (#1 – 4619, 6th Street N.E. Calgary, AB, T2E 3Z6; 403-471-9851; https://www.theveteransfoodbankofcalgary.ca/), in honour of all of our veterans. Thank you & God Bless.