Chris Bellchamber turns 100 years old on Wednesday, and the milestone birthday was marked with a special flyby on Monday from the Canadian Forces Snowbirds.
“Wonderful is probably the best word I can use,” the Edmonton man said of the honour.
Bellchamber has a full history. His daughter, Chris Monilawis, said he was a bomber pilot for Britain in the Second World War. He immigrated to Canada with his wife in 1950.
“There he joined the RCAF (Royal Canadian Air Force) in 1951, and he was in the Maritime patrol. He was also involved in the Cold War and going down to Cuba during the Cuban missile crisis, following Russian ships,” Monilawis said.
“He has had a lot of excitement in his life.”
Bellchamber’s family wanted to bring some of that excitement back. After learning the Snowbirds would be in Camrose, Alta., one of his daughters reached out to see if they would consider doing a flyby.
“My sister sent out an email and I went, ‘They aren’t ever going to do anything,’ and they said, ‘Yeah, sure,'” Monilawis said.
“It takes your breath away a little bit. It’s a bit of a blessing.”
Bellchamber said he flew 5,000 hours of logged time with the air force.
“He flew Halifax, Wellingtons, Lancasters in the war, and when he came here, he flew Lancasters and also Argus. They are pretty big planes. We are pretty proud of him,” Monilawis said.
The flyby was just a few moments, but it was very appreciated. Bellchamber has had a tough year. Before Christmas, he went to hospital with congestive heart failure. Then he caught COVID-19.
“It was a rough go and we didn’t think we would still have him here with us,” Monilawis said.
“He is a bit of a fighter. He had malaria twice (during the Second World War)… and he’s had cancer three times — so the man knows how to fight.”
“It’s a pity that I can’t see much anymore and I can’t hear much anymore, but here I am,” Bellchamber said.
Despite those challenges, Bellchamber was still able to catch a glimpse of the special flyby for his milestone birthday.
“I could see four airplanes going by… It’s terrific.”