This week, myself and a large group of others, said goodbye to an old friend.
His Cancer was not unknown to me. I have lost other friends in the last 10 years with the exact same type – most notably was an old family friend, 1 week before we lost Chris. Not my friend, but connected to Chris by the same Cancer – Gord Downie (many Canadians probably have heard that name).
After nearly 30 years of loyal and dedicated service to Canada, Lieutenant-Colonel Chris Spearin entered the Delta on 13 September 2019 following a nearly two-year courageous battle with brain cancer.
Beloved husband of Kelley, proud and devoted father of Abigail, Matthew and Audrey, loving son of Judy and the late George, beloved son-in-law of Robyn McNicoll and husband Hubert Bauch, Ronald Gratton and wife Patricia Pipon, dear brother of Kyle and wife Paulette, brother in law to Danielle and predeceased by his brother Kevin, brother-in-law to Tyler McNicoll-Gratton and wife Hillary Duncan, Chris always took care of others before himself and deeply touched the lives of people near and far.
Chris served in The Windsor Regiment as a Junior NCM before enrolling in the Regular Force on 18 June 1992 as an Air Navigator. He graduated RMC with a degree in Chemical and Materials Engineering and a love of both the pipes and sailing.
Chris was posted to 423 (Maritime Helicopter) Squadron and qualified as a Tactical Coordinator (TACCO) on the CH-124 Sea King Helicopter. He embarked on HMC Ships ATHABASKAN, PRESERVER, FREDERICTON and HALIFAX. He was an avid member of the 12 Wing Pipes and Drums. He continued to expand his love of sailing. He was an easy choice to fill the MH exchange position with the Royal Navy in RNAS Culdrose, UK, where he flew on the Merlin Helicopter from 2003 to 2007. Upon his return to Canada, he was posted to the Helicopter Operational Test and Evaluation Facility (HOTEF).
He again acquired a sailboat, christened it “Fubar” and would go on to participate in numerous races around the East Coast. In 2009, he met the love of his life Kelley and they began to build their family. Chris and Kelley moved to Chester, NS in 2012, added two more children to their merry band and made a home that was always warm and open to friends and family.
In 2015, he was selected for the role of DCO at 12 Air Maintenance Squadron – the first aircrew to ever fill the position. In 2016, he deployed to Romania as part of NATO’s Multi-National Division Southeast HQ. In 2017, he completed the Joint Command and Staff Program at the Canadian Forces College, graduating with a Masters in Defence Studies. He was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel and was posted to the Canadian Joint Operations Command Headquarters as the Section Head, J5 Indo-Asia Pacific. Here he deployed to Dominica for relief operations following Hurricane Maria and later to the Pacific.
We put together a fitting service in Shearwater, that included a flag ceremony and funeral in the hangar, followed by a reception in the mess. We chatted often during planning as aircraft were in various states of maintenance in the hangar, and if we should hide/cover/disguise the aircraft.
The decision was NO. This was an operational aircraft, Chris was an operational aviator. He did get a flight in a Cyclone before he passed. That was a day that made me proud of the MH community. But, the reality still stands – Chris would want a funeral in the realistic hangar.
Some of his family adapted a poem for him and read it at the funeral.
It touched me, it was good.
Adapted by Meridith Wilkenson, and Jocelynne Fitzpatrick
Original poem – “Destination”, author unknown.
I hope there’s a place way up in the sky,
Where airmen can go when they die.
A place where a guy can buy a cold beer,
For a friend and a comrade, whose memory is dear,
A place where no doctor or lawyer can tread,
Where a bagpiper and skipper of “Fubar” is welcome instead.
Just a quaint little place, kind of dark, full of smoke,
Where they like to sing loud and love a good joke.
The kind of a place where a lady could go,
And feel safe and protected by the men she would know.
There must be a place where airmen go,
When their paining is finished and their airspeed gets low.
Where the whiskey is old, and the women are young,
And songs about flying and dying are sung.
Where you’d see all the fellows who’d flown west before,
And they’d call out your name, as you came through the door.
Who would buy you a drink if your thirst should be bad,
And relate to others “He was quite a good lad.”
And then through the mist, you’d spot an old guy,
You had not seen in years though he taught you to fly.
He’d nod his head and grin ear to ear,
And say “Welcome, my son, I’m pleased that you’re here,
For this is the place where true flyers come,
When their journey is over and the war has been won.
They’ve come here at last to be safe and away from the noise,
Where all hours are happy and these good old boys,
Can relax with a cool one, and well deserved rest,
This is heaven my son…You’ve passed your last test!”
A proud MH warrior gone far too soon, Lieutenant-Colonel Chris Spearin will be sorely missed by all who knew him and Sunday’s toast, ‘To absent friends’ cuts deeper with him in the Delta. Secure Flying Stations.