Neil MacPherson of Calgary died at Extendicare Cedars Villa on Friday, June 26, 2009 at the age of 78 years, following a brief illness after being diagnosed with dementia in 2007.
Neil was born on May 22, 1931 in Glace Bay, Cape Breton, NS, fourth of twelve children to Thomas Clarke MacPherson, a coal miner, and his wife Gertrude (née Boutilier). He grew up in Glace Bay during the Great Depression and the Second World War, experiencing, but not at all comprehending, a Cape Breton church service conducted entirely in Gaelic as late as 1942. In February 1951, Neil volunteered at age 19 for active service in the Korean War with The Royal Canadian Regiment (RCR). He saw regular infantry combat as a Bren gunner in 1951-1952, including the Battle of Hill 355 (“Little Gibraltar”) with “D” Company of the 1st Battalion in October 1952; his younger brother Gus also served with him in the RCR during the war. Neil twice narrowly escaped being killed by enemy mortar fire; once when a near-miss blew off his shirt except for the cuffs and collar, and another time when his bunker was demolished by a direct hit shortly after he left it earlier than usual to fetch his breakfast. In another incident, he and a fellow Canadian guided an American lieutenant and some of his men out of a minefield that the Americans had entered by accident; in gratitude, the lieutenant arranged to give Neil’s unit a much sought-after jeep. Neil later qualified as an Active Force paratrooper with the RCR in the dedicated airborne role, serving as part of the NATO forces in West Germany during 1953-1955. As an acting junior non-commissioned officer, he normally sent the bulk of his monthly pay home to Glace Bay, enabling his family to build an addition to their house. He was Honourably Discharged at Wolseley Barracks, London, Ontario in February 1957 having earned the Canadian Korean Medal, the UN Service Medal for Korea, the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal for Korea and the Special Service Medal with “NATO” clasp. He and his wife Orma Belle (née Millman) were married in December 1962 in Prince Edward Island, having two sons, Nelson (b. 1963 in Calgary) and Andrew (b. 1966 in Summerside, Prince Edward Island). Neil and Orma were married just over thirty-eight years, with Orma offering selfless dedication and support to her husband and family under often trying circumstances. Neil resided permanently in Calgary since 1973, working in a variety of occupations until he was awarded a veteran’s pension for disabilities acquired during his war-time service. Orma predeceased him there, dying of cancer on January 7, 2001. Neil is survived by his sons; his brothers, Gus, Mark, Daniel, and Thomas; and his sisters, Gertrude, Isabel, and Joan.
Graveside Services will be held at Queen’s Park Cemetery (3219 – 4th Street NW, Calgary) on Tuesday, June 30, 2009 at 11:00 a.m. Forward condolences through www.mcinnisandholloway.com. Nelson and Andrew would like to extend their sincere gratitude to the staff of Extendicare Cedars Villa, particularly those in the Poplar Unit and especially unit manager Lee Ann Luciano. Their care and attention to Neil since 2007 has been exemplary, and Lee Ann’s special understanding of Neil assured that he experienced the most comfortable and happy life possible throughout his residence there.
In living memory of Neil MacPherson, a tree will be planted at Fish Creek Provincial Park by McINNIS & HOLLOWAY FUNERAL HOMES, Chapel of the Bells, 2720 CENTRE STREET NORTH Telephone: (403) 276-2296.Print This Obituary & Condolences