Edmonton pond named after WW2 veteran who was prisoner of war
A pond and several streets in southwestern Edmonton now bear the name of a Second World War veteran and former prisoner of war.
Gordon King, 99, was honoured Saturday at the dedication of the Gordon King Pond in the Keswick neighbourhood. His daughter, two sons and grandchildren accompanied him at the ceremony.
“He’s very humble. He just doesn’t understand why they would do something,” said daughter Cathy King with a smile.
“He feels he’s just an ordinary person.”
But King has lived an extraordinary life. A pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force, King’s aircraft was shot down by the Germans. He was captured and spent three years as a prisoner of war.
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During that time, King participated in The Great Escape where he and fellow prisoners of war dug tunnels in hopes of escaping the prison camp.
“While participating in the digging, Gord played many roles such as the lookout man and ‘the dish,’ taking excavated sand to the entry point and handing it off to a dispersal man. He and another prisoner also stole electrical wire that would replace the oil burning lamps in the tunnels,” reads a handout from the City of Edmonton naming committee, which recommended the pond be named after King.
“Gord was operating the air pump on the evening of the escape, and waiting to be the 141st officer of the 200 men who planned to escape, but only 76 officers made it out of the tunnel, three of which escaped before being discovered by a German solider.”
Watch below: (From March 2014) The story of “The Great Escape” is legendary, but what’s forgotten, is the contribution from the Canadian prisoners who spearheaded the audacious plan. Stuart Greer reports.
King remained at the prison camp until 1945. After he returned from the war, he worked in Winnipeg before moving to Edmonton, where he became active in the community with the YMCA, Rotary Club and the Freemasons.
“This is a real honour – to have a street and a pond named after you in the City of Edmonton is fantastic,” Cathy said.
She said she hopes Keswick residents who walk in the seven-acre natural space reflect on the importance of community.
“Community is a big thing for [my dad],” Cathy said. “He needs to know people should get involved in their community and help out and volunteer.
“Hopefully we’ll never have to deal with [war]. He doesn’t feel like he’s a hero in that part of his life, but when you’re involved in your community, that’s really important.”
Several plaques dot the pond, providing information about King and his contributions to the community.
“My dad is the kind of guy everyone would want as a neighbour,” son Chris said. “He was the kind of guy who would lend you a tool or lend you a hand.
“He helped make the neighbourhood a better place to live, and I think it’s wonderful his name is associated with this terrific new community.”
King now lives in a senior retirement home but his family hopes to bring him to the pond when they can.
“I think it would be nice to bring dad here for some walks while he’s still alive. I’m hoping to,” Cathy said.
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