SASKATOON – It’s important to ‘Never Forget’ those who lost their lives during the events of Sept. 11, 2001. One Lloydminster man’s legacy continues to burn bright to this day.
The 9/11 Never Forget Mobile Exhibit makes its debut in Canada this weekend at the Canada Remembers air show in Saskatchewan. The 53-foot tractor trailer unfolds into a 1,000 square-foot exhibit that serves as an emotional reminder of events that took place on that day.
It pays tribute to the victims and heroes of 9/11, one of them being Garnet “Ace” Bailey. The 53-year-old was one of around 25 Canadians who died in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States.
Bailey was an inspiration; from successes that included seven Stanley Cup rings – two with the Boston Bruins and five with the Edmonton Oilers – to having the ability to light up the lives of anyone around him.
Barbara Pothier, his sister-in-law, says anyone that knew Ace would say he was an extremely funny guy.
“He was a very funny and frenetic man, he was at it all the time. When he sat down it meant he was sleeping, which wasn’t very often. He always had things going on and he was very busy, full of energy, full of life, everybody loved him,” said Pothier, from Providence, R.I.
“So many quips and sayings and he just made fun out of everything. Everything just was fun with him, just going out to the grocery store with Ace was just fun, any mundane thing, he always just added life and spark to it.”
He was born in Lloydminster in 1948.
“Ace was Canadian through and through, he lived in the United States for many years from the time he was about 17, and my sister and he made their home in Lynnfield, Mass., but obviously Canada was in his bones,” said Pothier.
“You can take the boy out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the boy, he had a big piece of land adjoining his backyard area and he had chickens out there, he had a couple of ducks, he had about six turkeys and he loved them and they were hysterical.”
Tragically, Bailey was one of the passengers aboard United Airlines Flight 175 when it was hijacked and crashed into the World Trade Center’s south tower in New York City during the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
“Within my family, we all miss him terribly but you can’t stand the sad mood about Ace long because immediately you start telling the stories and he was just so hysterically funny that we’ll all be laughing within seconds,” said Pothier.
“It was a great loss to us, to lose Ace on that day, as it was to all the families that lost people of course, but it really shot a hole through us, he was the middle of everything in the family so we miss him a great deal.”
This weekend, the 9/11 Never Forget exhibit will make its inaugural visit to Saskatoon in an effort to preserve the memory of the heroes and victims lost 14 years ago.
Pothier recalls learning about events of Pearl Harbour as a child and why there needs to be a certain level of vigilance. She says the upcoming exhibit will also help people remember the firefighters and the things they did for their fellow man without thinking at all.
After Ace died, Pothier says the Boston Bruins alumni gave their family a large cheque to do something in his memory.
“It took very little thought to know that we should do something for kids, Ace loved kids and he always had things going for kids, he took care of tons of kids,” said Pothier.
“Ace had a history of going to those Boston hospitals to see sick kids.”
His family founded the Ace Bailey Children’s Foundation in his honour. Today, Pothier is executive director of the foundation, which raises funds to benefit hospitalized children, infants and their families.
As a result, “Ace’s Place” was constructed in a Boston hospital. It’s a play room free of medical intrusion, where young patients can retreat, relax and forget for a moment where they are.
Even to this day, Pothier attributes the success of the foundation and her efforts to the legacy Ace left behind.
“When they see his name, they want to help [the foundation],” said Pothier.
Bailey made a career out of hockey. He is one of a select few to play on the same team as NHL legends Bobby Orr and Wayne Gretzky.
At quite a young age, he won two Stanley Cups with the Boston Bruins in 1969-70 and 1971-72. He went on to play a total of 11 seasons in the NHL with teams like the Detroit Red Wings, St. Louis Blues and the Washington Capitals.
He eventually ended up on the same Edmonton Oilers’ line as Wayne Gretzky in the WHA, where he took the future phenomenon under his wing.
“He always worried for me, he treated me like his own son and yet he treated me like a best friend. So I was really lucky, I had a great mentor,” Gretzky told Global News in 2011.
After Bailey’s playing career ended, he briefly tried coaching with Edmonton’s CHL affiliates. In 1982, he became a scout for the Oilers where he spent 13 seasons, during which the team won five Stanley Cups.
At the time of his death, Bailey was the Los Angeles Kings’ director of pro scouting. In his memory, the organization named their mascot “Bailey” and dedicated its annual award for the team’s most inspirational player to him in 2002.
“His fellow hockey players will tell you this too, that Ace wasn’t the hockey player that went out and scored a lot in the game, but instead Ace was the one who pulled everyone together, he was the one that was always in good cheer, who always kept people positive,” said Pothier.
“I know the Boston Bruins players say that about him and I know that he did that out in Los Angeles as well and Wayne Gretzky will tell you the same thing, that Ace was the one that could always pull Wayne out of a slump and let him see the positive side of things.”
Pothier says Bailey is so dearly missed because there are not many people like him.
“Ace didn’t distinguish between people ever, if you walked into the Boston Garden with Ace all the guys cleaning the floors and removing the trash yelled ‘hey Ace’ and the president of the Bruins yelled ‘hey Ace,” said Pothier.
“He knew everyone and he treated the president like the guy who swept the floor and the guy that swept the floor like the president, he had one way of treating all people and that’s really true.”
Bailey left behind his wife Katherine and son Todd. Since Ace has passed, Todd has married and now has a son, Evan Garnet Bailey. Barbara says Evan knows all about Ace and she assures Global News he would have made the perfect grandfather.
Anyone in and around Saskatoon is welcome to come and see the 9/11 exhibit at the Canada Remembers Our Heroes air show running this Saturday and Sunday at Auto Clearing Motor Speedway.