Today, on Remembrance Day, as I have every year since he died, I will spare a few special moments to mourn my hero, William (Duke) Procter. I got to know Duke as part of a Globe and Mail series on remaining veterans from the terrible carnage of World War One. There weren’t many by that time, but one was Duke. He was 102, still living by himself in Vernon, still tending his large garden, still bowling, still square dancing, still….well, you get the picture. To celebrate his 100th birthday, he jumped out of an airplane (with parachute). The landing was a bit of a jar, but within moments, he was up on his feet, grinning. He was as full of life as a 10-year old. I’ve never met anyone that I enjoyed talking to more than Duke. But every time we talked, and the conversation turned to the the war, he wept.
Duke and his brother managed to avoid being shipped to France because of their backwoods background, transferred to the north of England to cut down trees to shore up the trenches, while his mates went “over there”. Many died, and Duke mourned them until his last breath, still feeling guilty that he survived and they didn’t. He vowed to never forget them, and every Remembrance Day, Duke Procter marched. I was there for Duke’s last march, when he was 104. Below are links to my Globe story on that wonderful day, followed by what I wrote when Duke finally passed on. It’s 100 years since “the war to end all wars” began, and Duke was part of it. Here’s to you, pal.