Canadian veteran, British war bride married for 75 years die hours apart
A month after celebrating a lifetime of love for their 75th wedding anniversary, George and Jean Spear died on Sept. 15 — within five hours of each other.
George, a Canadian Second World War veteran who served in Italy and North Africa, met Jean in August 1941 in a dance hall during the London Blitz.
“We danced all evening long. You came home to meet my family the next day. We went to the swimming pool,” Jean recalled during an interview with Global News in 2011.
George didn’t waste a minute and married his British bride a year later before being shipped out to fight.
“The war put a sharpness to everything we did. Especially if you’re in love you do not know how long you are going to be around,” George once said.
But that sharpness grew into a lifetime of commitment. The couple died at the Queensway Carleton Hospital in Ottawa. Jean, 94, was admitted Wednesday when she became very ill and developed pneumonia.
George, 97, was admitted to the same hospital after he fell into a deep sleep at home. Hospital staff tried to reunite them on the same floor but Jean died before that could be arranged.
Jean died at 4:30 a.m. on Friday and George five hours later at 9:45 a.m.
The couple shared a long life together that started in strife but ended in peace.
The hardship started when bombings got worse in London, and Jean was forced to flee with thousands of other war brides to her new home in Canada.
She landed in Ottawa, with the snow piled high, just before Christmas in 1944. George was serving as a sergeant major in the 1st Corps Field Survey Co, Royal Canadian Engineers. He was being sent home to train others.
“There was a man running towards me with coattails flying — it was so unusual — he ran up to me, wrapped his arms around me and it was George,” Jean told Global News a few years ago.
Over the years, Jean volunteered and worked with other war brides who were settling in Canada. She created the first club for war brides in the country.
The Queen gave her one of Britain’s top honours, making her a Member of the Order of the British Empire in 2006. She accepted on behalf of the 50,000 British war brides who moved to Canada.
The couple also met the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in Ottawa during their 2011 Royal Tour.
They left behind two children, daughter Heather Spear and son Ian Spear.
— With files from Peter Harris, Global News.
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