Dear family and friends of James Easton Jamieson: We are gathered here today, in this sacred place, as a sign of respect and to say our final good-bye to our father, our father-in-law, our grandfather, our refugee sponsor, our benefactor, our friend.
My father is part of what has been called the greatest generation of all time – at the very least it was an heroic generation, born into the uncertainty that followed the First World War with its horror and carnage, raised in the poverty of the Great Depression, sacrificing its youth to another World War, and then leading us, at least we Baby Boomers, into the greatest prosperity in the history of the human race.
But in the case of Jim, his sacrifices, his heroics, his love of others, was just beginning in the post WW II era as I will focus on later.
Dad was born in 1922 in Kamloops, the third of four boys, into a working class family albeit his father was to reach the level of Conductor with the CPR. At the age of 13, however, Jim’s father died, and his mother was left with four boys to feed and raise and with no income, save a once a year free ride on the CPR. While the family survived, thanks to their First Nations relatives who freely shared resources, it left Dad largely rudderless until he met our mother some years later. I will return to this as well.
In 1939 the Second Great War broke out and Prime Minister McKenzie-King quickly offered the youth of our Nation to support Great Britain which was, as time moved on, to find itself as the sole bulwark facing the powerful and evil Nazi and Fascist Entente.
For young men of the time in Canada, going overseas to war seemed like a great adventure and provided a sense of freedom – not to mention being an escape from poverty and no meaningful future. Foolish as this may seem, given the horrors of war, this was their reality. At the age of 17, my father, with a friend jumped a train near Kamloops to join the Army.
One version of the story has them expecting to arrive in Vancouver but whatever the case they ended up east, not west, in Calgary. For a time at least, the only way they could get fed and have a roof over their heads was to spend the night in jail – and so they did. A little later Dad got a part time job as a dishwasher with two free meals a day, one of which he got the manager to agree could go to his friend who had no work; perhaps a sign of things to come.
Dad’s brother Al, 18, also went to Calgary soon after Jim and within a short time both brothers were signed up with the Army. Jim was now a 17- year-old member of The Calgary Highlanders complete with kilt and rifle and ready to go to war – a war in which he would have had a 25 per cent chance of coming back alive and without serious injury.
At the same time his brother Al joined The King’s Own Calgary Regiment that battled in tanks and he went on to spend the war years fighting in Sicily, Italy, and eventually Holland, where he and the Canadian Brigade not only liberated Holland but also saved much of the population from starvation – for which Canadians are still loved and honoured in The Netherlands. The war was to shape their views of life forever.
But a quirk of fate, a twist in history, the first of several small miracles, was to save Jim’s life and in turn assure the lives of all his children. For you see, to join the Army at that time you were supposed to be at least 18 but checking on this at the time of signing up with the Army was seldom done.
Under pressure from the mothers of Canada, Mackenzie-King and his government promised that no 17 year old or younger would be sent overseas. This was a bitter pill for young Jim to swallow as he was literally pulled off a train on route to a ship for overseas and he never really forgave himself for not going overseas.
But it was not to be the end of Dad’s good luck from his children’s point of view. Someone in Jim’s Chain of Command found out that Jim had taken a typing course in high school and this was again, arguably, to save his life. In the age well before computers, the Army needed men who could type and there were not many. Dad was therefore selected to be an administrative clerk at the Army’s Pacific Command Headquarters at Jericho Beach in Vancouver for what turned out to be the rest of the war.
But the good fortune, the twists of fate, the small miracles that were to befall our father did not stop there. For he was to meet a highly intelligent and beautiful young woman with a strong sense of herself and her values who would change Dad’s life forever.
This was Margaret, the woman who was to not only be the love of his life but also the person who would be his moral compass and who would provide direction in his life, as well as the lives of her children, through her qualities, her strength, and her faith. But for another small miracle, all this would have been lost to the vagaries of life.
When the time came for marriage, long before I was born, for that was the order of things in those days, both Jim and Margaret were under 21 and could not be married legally unless all living parents consented.
Margaret’s parents, Patrick and Ethel, were fine with this as long as Jim became a Catholic – and let’s face it, Jim would have signed up for anything to marry Margaret – but Jim’s mother would not consent, because of her religious convictions. So, as you may read in many newspaper accounts, the issue went before a BC court which decided that if you were old enough to serve your country in the Armed Forces, you were old enough to marry. And so, unintendedly, Jim and Margaret set a legal precedent without which many of us would not be here today.
As I mentioned earlier, the years after WWII were the true heroic years for both Margaret and Jim as their love and sacrifices shone in the lives of their children and deeply within their communities. Jim worked two jobs much of his life thereafter to support his family and he served beyond this as a great organizer within the community.
These skills, sustained by the love he received from Margaret, enabled Jim to reach out to many with love and patience. Here in Victoria it showed itself in the work he did for the homeless and in organizing low-cost housing for many. It showed itself until the day he died in his generosity to any who asked for this help and in his endless work for refugees, both through sponsorship and provisions thereafter.
I would be remiss however if I left the impression that Dad was faultless. When our dear mother passed away, almost ten years ago, Dad seemed to become somewhat rudderless again. It was as if a light showing him the way went out. He struggled at times and was taken advantage of.
But in the end Dad was at peace and looked forward to being with Margaret in the next plane. I know this not only because he told us that he was not afraid but more than this, he told us, through our sister Rita that he was happy and loved us and would see us later.
He smiled at Rita in his last hours, winked at her, and blew her many kisses. I believe these kisses were for all of us for he loves each of us as he has proven in his life and knows he will see us at the banquet prepared for all of us that can love as he did.
And so Dad we love you and forgive you for any injuries you may have caused and we ask that you and Mom continue to love us and forgive our faults. When you were born you were crying and full of distress but all around you were smiling and full of joy. As you leave us you are smiling and all of us are left in tears.
Jim Jamieson Jr. served as a social worker in the military. He still works in the field of post traumatic stress therapy based in Ottawa.
Current issue: Vol. 31, Issue 1,2 & 3, March 23, 2017