Those who knew him will tell you that Gordon Bruce Okill Stuart was no ordinary man.
“Just his drive, his energy, his organizational skills,” noted Bruce Bolton, a Lieutenant Colonel with the 78th Fraser Highlanders, an historical group in Montreal, and a friend.
Stuart was born in Montreal in 1921 but received part of his education at Gordonstoun School in Scotland, where he befriended a classmate who would go on to become a central figure in British society.
“Well he was Prince Philip of Greece, and proud of it,” laughed Stuart during an interview with Global News in 2017.
It’s the same Prince Philip who would become husband to Queen Elizabeth II. That friendship lasted up until Stuart’s death last week. He was 98.
But Stuart made his own mark in life. He was part of the first wave in the 1944 D-Day invasion of Europe during the Second World War, fighting with the 14th Field Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery. He ended his military career as a Sergeant.
After the war he returned home where, like other veterans, he plunged into community work.
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Bolton explained that serving the community “was all part of their way of saying we have to pass on what we learnt and make sure it doesn’t happen again. For them it was all about the community, something we’re lacking today.”
Stuart built a career in real estate, but over his life, either served in, founded or was honoured by more than sixty organizations across the country. One was the United Empire Loyalists Association of Canada.
“He was president of the local branch of the Loyalist Association here in Montreal,” current President Robert Wilkins told Global News.
Stuart later became the national president.
Another group he had a strong connection to was the 78th Fraser Highlanders, an historical society, where he was an Honourary Lieutenant Colonel. His pipe banner now flies on a bagpipe sometimes, an honour reserved for only a few.
“Despite his old age he was always in a good mood and willing to tell stories,” said piper Nola-Patrick Cunningham. “I always remember his blooming positivity.”
Stuart also earned numerous awards including France’s Legion of Honour in 2011, for his action in Normandy.
Bolton said he most admired Stuart for his decisive leadership.
“Basically saying let’s do it. If we’re wrong, we’re wrong, but let’s get it done.”
Wilkins agreed and remembers one of Stuart’s favourite quotes: “damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.”
He added that Stuart always found time to laugh.
“He was a man of caring, and a man of daring. He was a man who had the ability to look at the silver lining behind every cloud.”
That ability to lead, laugh and inspire until the end, is what friends say they will remember about him most.
“He was quite a gentleman,” noted Bolton, who plans to play the bagpipes at Stuart’s funeral on Sept. 6 at the Saint-Lambert United Church.
Visitation will be held on Thursday Sept. 5 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Collins Clarke Macgillivray White Funeral Home.
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