When pilots fly the Missing Man Formation over Williams Lake this Saturday during the Remembrance Day Services, they will be without one special passenger — dear friend and local Second World War veteran Cliff Stinson.
“I was planning on having him with me. I wasn’t expecting he couldn’t fly,” said Lloyd Como of his friend Stinson, who has been sick in recent weeks.
The two, aged 61 and 91 respectively, have formed a close bond since they met five years ago at a local shotgun shoot hosted by the Williams Lake Sportsmen’s Association.
“We just hit it off,” Como said of their friendship. “Then we started hunting together and now we’re really good friends.”
Since then, Stinson has introduced Como to bird hunting and has shared many stories of the war with him, while Como and other Williams Lake Flying Club pilots have taken Stinson to the skies during the fly over.
“It’s special because he loves flying and, of course, because he’s a vet,” said Como, who has taken Stinson up in his Luscombe.
Stinson was a dispatch rider in the Second World War and was there when the Canadians stormed Juno Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944.
The dispatchers worked out of a holding unit and Stinson spent most of his time with the British Army.
Originally from Verdun, Man., Stinson enlisted at Port Arthur, Ont., which is now part of Thunder Bay.
In a previous interview with the Tribune, Stinson remembered the water being very rough on D-Day as a young 18-year-old.
“We had to wade in and it was up to our chests. I was pushing that stupid motorcycle,” he recalled.
Stinson still has a love of motorcycles, and jumped at the chance this spring to go for a spin with Como up the highway on his Harley.
“He still wanted to go for a ride, and he loved it,” Como said of the roadtrip. “Cliff had a blast.”
Como said Stinson bird hunted this fall and even went on a moose hunting trip up north three weeks ago when he started to feel sick.
“He’s a real keener. He was at the door at 5:30 a.m.”
Como hopes after he completes the fly over he will be able to go pick up his old friend and take him to the Legion for a few hours to mark the occassion.
Stinson’s daughter Heather said she cherishes the stories told by her father of his time in the war, where he served along with his brother and father, who served in both WWI and WWII.
“I am very, very proud of him,” she said, noting her father is looking forward to Saturday.