MY FATHER was discharged from the Royal Canadian Air Force on October 29, 1945, and returned home to his wife, Agnes. Their first child, Marty, was born on December 23rd of that year. A daughter, Mary, was born on February 23rd, 1952. He returned to his job at Supertest where he worked for the rest of his life.
after the war
Fl/Sgt.
R85755
William
Martin McGinnis

1906-
1968

.
discharge certificate HE WORKED HIS WAY UP to middle management in the company, and they bought a house. There were a few vacations, of course, and a Buick in the garage. He spent most of his free time building a new parish church, and helping found the local credit union. He had the second of several heart attacks in the early '50s.

While working on this site, I asked my brother and sister what they could remember about him. In an e-mail, my brother wrote:
 

"He was a self-educated man and while he was not widely read I remember how well-informed he was.  He was also one of the wisest men I ever met and greatly respected for his judgement by all of his friends."

My brother also confirmed that Dad never made much of his time in the war. Like many veterans, he tended to want to get on with his life. There was little nostalgia, and no sense of heroism.
 

"He never joined the Legion, walked in the veteran's parade or wore his medals.  In fact, I don't think he ever picked up his medals.  I remember the mail man bringing them one Saturday morning.  I know it was a Saturday because Mom and Dad were still in bed and we all looked at the box in their bed.  It was on Gray Ave. so it had to be in the early to mid 1950's.  I remember that Dad was somewhat detached.  The medals went into the drawer and stayed there.  I think he never felt like a real soldier because he never left Canada."

IN 1964, AGNES AND BILL adopted a baby, a boy who had been born illegitimately to a teenager in the family. I don't have many memories of my father. He was diagnosed with colon cancer, and was in and out of hospitals much of the time. My sister, in an e-mail, remembered his last night:
 

"It's funny, you think you will never forget a date like that, but I sure remember the events of that night. I had come home from a high school dance and sat with him in the living room chatting about the evening. Eventually he left to go to bed. (He had spent some time in the hospital not sure how long but I know he was there on my birthday in February, and I believe he was only home a short time when he died.) I went to their bedroom a little later to ask him something...All I remember is that he was dead when fire dept. arrived."
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
after the war
after the war: back in civilian clothes
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
dad and me
dad and me
from Fl/Sgt. McGinnis discharge record
.
AGNES McGINNIS OUTLIVED her husband by twenty years. There wasn't a lot left after she died. I've pieced together this site from the letters, a handful of photos, and military records requested from the National Archives in Ottawa. There's his Defence medal, and a serviceman's pin. Not much, at the end of a life -- just bits and pieces.

Samuel Johnson once wrote: "The true art of memory is the art of attention." It's easy to ignore men like my father, whose service was motivated by duty and spent in unremarkable military necessity. Very few people would call him a hero, except maybe when they think how much they might like to leave their own life and family out of a sense of duty to their country. The idea seems quaint, almost fantastic, today.

There were many men like my father, and the only way we can preserve their memory is by practicing the art of attention. 

I hope this site can act as a small memorial for one of these men.


 
back to previous letters
back to base

 
website design and contents © 1999 Rick McGinnis
home page