Flyover for respected pilot, reeve and farmer
Foothills: Gordon Jones remembered at service at Nanton museum
By: Bruce Campbell
| Posted: Wednesday, Sep 25, 2013 06:00 am
There were hundreds of people looking up as a vintage Tiger Moth flew over the Nanton Lancaster Museum in tribute to a man they looked up to as the reeve of the MD of Foothills, a successful farmer and a pilot who taught many young men how to fly at the Royal Canadian Air Force station in High River in preparation for the Second World War.
Approximately 550 people attended the funeral in Nanton on Friday for High Riverite Gordon Jones, who passed away on Sept. 10 at the Foothills Country Hospice.
Syd Miller, 91, taught flight school with Jones in High River in 1941-42. Miller said Jones was the kingpin of the instructors at the school.
“You bet he was,” Miller said. “There would be about 10 instructors in each flight and he ran them. He was an exceptionally good pilot and the hardest working pilot there. He put more hours in flying than anyone.”
Tiger Moths were used for instruction at the High River Flight School; Jones would later purchase one, flying it until he was well into his 80s.
It was his experience and skills that made him so well respected among both the students and instructors at the school.
“He had just so much knowledge of the airplane and of flying — he just loved flying,” Miller said. “I would go to Gordon for advice, just about general flying.”
Miller received a copy in December of Anne Gafiuk’s “Wings over High River”, a biography of Jones’ experiences at the High River flight school. The copy was signed by Jones, and helped rekindle a World War II friendship.
“My son and I visited him at their house in High River about five months ago,” Miller said with a laugh. “Gord wanted me to go fly with him and I said didn’t think he had a licence. Gord laughed and said: ‘Well you know Syd, there are no policeman in the sky.’”
Jones was flying until he was 90, although he was required to have a co-pilot with him.
Jones temporarily gave up flying after the Second World War, but his stint in High River led to him falling in love with the area.
He purchased a farm in the MD of Foothills and later served as a councillor for District 1, serving for 15 years from 1977-1992. He was reeve for his last term, helping to guide a rookie councillor by the name of Flores Groeneveld.
“Roy McLean and I were brand new at that time,” Groeneveld said. “Gord set me and Roy up for a long session on council.”
Both McLean and Groeneveld would later serve as reeve.
Groeneveld learned a lot from Jones.
“How I would sum up Gordon is accountability,” Groeneveld said. “He was a very frugal person, especially when you were on council. Every cent had to be wisely spent — which is good. He also believed in accountability to the ratepayers. They came first and you listen to them.
“Those are two things I learned from Gordon and I always carried that with me.”
There were other advantages to having a first-class pilot at the head of the MD.
“Every time we went on a trip to Lethbridge or Edmonton or wherever we were supposed to drive — Gord would fly us,” Flores said with a chuckle. “And I doubt if he ever put in the hours or a bill in for that.”
Marlyne Sutherland was a neighbour to the Jones family both when they lived near Frank Lake and when they moved to High River.
“I remember him being absolutely passionate about playing cribbage with wife (Linora),” she said. “They had a specially built table with a cribbage board in it and played for hours.”
She added Jones was a good neighbour always willing to help. He was also a good farmer.
Something Jones’ neighbour to the north, Gary Smith, agreed with.
“He had to be to make a good living,” he said.
Gord returned to his love of flying in the mid 1960s, when a power line was scheduled to be built in front of his house near Frank Lake. He was able to stop the line from going through his property by building a runway.
He would later run a flying school at the High River Airport. Jones was also an avid curler and a long-standing member of the High River and District Rotary Club.
He never lost his love for the Tiger Moth either. He often flew his Tiger Moth over the Nanton museum on special occasions. His plane is being donated to the museum in the near future.
Jones is survived by his wife of 69 years, Linora and their five children, George, Barbara, David, Mary-Ellen and Darcy.