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Douglas MacRitchie Memorial Award

Written by Gord McNulty.

 

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The 2014 MacRitchie Award presentation at Centennial College: from left, Yves Deschenes, Associate Vice President, Marketing; Andril Ralko, award recipient; Gord McNulty, CAHS representative; Marilyn Scott, Chief of Staff. Photo via Centennial College

It was a pleasure to represent the Toronto Chapter of the CAHS and the national CAHS for the presentation of the Douglas MacRitchie Memorial Award at Centennial College in Toronto on Feb. 19, 2014. Andril Ralko of North York was the recipient of the $500 scholarship, presented to the top graduating student in the highly regarded Aircraft Maintenance Technician Course at Centennial during the college’s gala Student Awards Night 2014.

The scholarship was established by Douglas’ family and friends. Douglas (CAHS member no. 76) was an exceptional volunteer for the society, who played a key role for many years in the production and distribution of the CAHS Journal, and had many friends in the aviation community. He was a national director at the time of his death at Burlington, August 20, 1980, while flying his Stinson 108, CF-DAF, to Fort Erie, to visit his brother, Bruce, at Fleet Industries Ltd. in Fort Erie and help in the restoration of a Cornell.

Andril told me he had tried to research information on Douglas from the Internet, but wasn’t successful. I was able to mail him a copy of Bill Wheeler’s excellent In Memoriam tribute to Douglas in the Journal Vol. 18, No. 4, winter 1980 (transcribed below - Editor). I also referred Andril to a story in the Welland Tribune, headlined “Niagara College urged to spread wings and teach pilots.” The story described how the Welland Aero Center, of which Bruce is president, has trained about six hundred pilots over the years - many of whom have gone on to successful careers in civil or military aviation.

Bruce also ensured that Douglas’ memory continues to live on through the presentation of an award presented in Douglas’ name for a volunteer in the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum maintenance restoration program. The award is presented at the CWHM Annual General Meeting.

Centennial College, established in 1966, is Ontario’s first community college. It primarily serves the eastern Greater Toronto Area, with four campuses and seven satellite locations. Led by President Ann Buller, who became president in June 2004, Centennial is best known for exemplary teaching, innovative programming and extensive partnership building.

In Memoriam
Douglas Graham MacRITCHIE
1924 - 1980

By William J. Wheeler

Reprinted from the CAHS Journal Vol 18 No 4 Winter 1980

(Note: the first several paragraphs describing Doug's aircraft accident and the subsequent search have been omitted. Other than minor spelling corrections, the rest of the article is as it appears in the Journal - Editor)

Doug MacRitchie was one of those capable and quietly enthusiastic people who are the real strength of an organization like the CAHS. He was the sort of person who, when once convinced of an organization's value, makes a whole-hearted commitment. It is difficult to fully assess the extent and importance of his contribution to our JOURNAL. His name seldom appeared in its pages although his efforts were acknowledged occasionally (but all too rarely it now seems) in our Editorials. And yet, almost since the beginning every copy of every issue passed through Doug's hands in his capacity of Distribution Manager.

Doug joined the CAHS in June 1963 at the Oshawa Airshow (member no. 76) along with so many others who became prominent in our Society and within weeks he was taking an active part in its operation. At that time the executive of our young and relatively small group was searching for a location where our JOURNALS could be collated and stapled on a regular basis; Doug immediately offered the use of his basement playroom.

A typical JOURNAL issue would arrive at the MacRitchie home in the form of sixteen cartons each containing 1000 pages. These were laid out in sequence on the ping-pong table for collation by a crew of volunteers who circled it endlessly, it seemed. Stapling was done on a machine which came to be known as the "Long MK. II", designed and built by the late Don Long. Doug presided over the entire operation and then undertook to mail each issue (usually with the help of son Peter) and store the remaining several hundred copies. As our stock of back issues grew, Doug constructed shelves to hold them, filling an entire wall of the room which was now unofficially but effectively devoted to CAHS use. These back issues which have always been an important source of revenue eventually overflowed the basement and had to be stored in the MacRitchie attic. Although it became necessary a few years ago to disperse stock to one or two other members of our executive, Doug still kept the largest portion while retaining an amazingly accurate mental record of our, by then, extensive inventory. With Shel Benner, our Membership Secretary, he shared an equally impressive faculty for remembering with accuracy those among our hundreds of members who were currently paid up.

In 1972, with the switch to professionally done saddle stitching our collating sessions came to an end and were succeeded by "stuffing and stamping" sessions. These get-togethers also proved valuable as informal meetings where a great deal of JOURNAL planning was carried out. Often there was input from members who, because of the continually changing make-up of the group, might not otherwise have been involved. While serving a practical purpose they were enjoyable social occasions thanks to the hospitality of Doug, his wife Fae and the entire MacRitchie family. None of those who were ever present will forget how good the coffee and doughnuts tasted as we surveyed with satisfaction the stock of brand new JOURNALS ready to be taken to the post office in the morning. Doug's role in the CAHS was obviously a key one, particularly in the production and distribution of our JOURNAL. He will not easily be replaced.

Doug's unfailing readiness to help showed itself in many other ways and few who knew him could not recall some thoughtful act on his part. Charlie Catalano, our longtime Toronto Chapter President, remembers just such an incident. On a winter day a year or so ago Charlie had driven out to the Markham airport for a flight in his own elderly aircraft, an Aeronca Chief of 1946 vintage. At the airport he ran into Doug who had just flown in from Maple (near Toronto - Editor) and together they walked over to where the Chief was tied down. Charlie was about to climb into the aircraft when he discovered that the cabin floor was inches deep in a pink sludge and smelled strongly of gas. Immediately he realized that his gas tank, located just ahead of the instrument panel, must have sprung a leak and he was now looking at its contents.

As Charlie stood wondering how to handle the problem Doug went over to DAF (CF-DAF, his Stinson - Editor) and returned with his tool kit. Immediately he pitched in and with Charlie helping soon had the cowling off, the gas lines disconnected and the tank removed ready to be taken in for repairs. All this, done in temperatures below freezing and in an exposed location, demonstrated the rare sort of practical meaning Doug gave to simply being a friend.

Doug MacRitchie was born in Toronto on 24 December 1924 and grew up there, attending Earl Grey Public School and Danforth Tech. He joined Sangamo Electric early in 1942 and his employment with that firm, until his death 38 years later, was interrupted only by war service. In December 1943 he enlisted in the RCAF and became an LAC Aero Engine Mechanic. He was stationed successively at No. 1 Technical Training School; No. 8 Repair Depot, Stevenson Field Winnipeg; and No. 19 Service Flying Training School, Vulcan, Alberta. Upon his discharge in March 1946 he returned to Toronto and three years later married Alice Fae McLellan, formerly of Drinkwater, Saskatchewan, and at that time a registered nurse in Toronto. Two children were born, Peter and Sharon.

Doug had always been fascinated by aviation and Fae recalls that when he first learned of the CAHS she sensed immediately that our Society was exactly the sort of interest he had been looking for. His long and energetic involvement must bear out her supposition. In 1977, after actively supporting the CAHS for so many years Doug finally agreed to become a director.

During the early 'sixties Doug often worked weekends for Carldon Aviation, a Toronto Island Airport Cessna dealership, in which his brother Bruce was a partner. One result was that the Carldon "Bus" regularly appeared at southern Ontario air shows, used by Doug to transport the CAHS display panels. In payment for his work with Carldon, Doug was given flying lessons by Maple Air Service, gaining his pilot's licence in July 1966. He bought his Stinson 108 in the U.S. in April 1972 and immediately applied for and obtained a dormant registration, CF-DAF, containing both his and his wife's initials. The Stinson was always beautifully maintained and was given a tasteful red, white and ultramarine colour scheme. Doug flew it an average of 100 hours per year, mainly in Ontario. Longer trips included participation in the "Great Canadian Air Race" to Montreal and a flight to a Waco Club meeting at Dayton, Ohio. The elegant old Stinson was a cherished possession and afforded its owner much pleasure and satisfaction.

Two separate annual CAHS awards are to be instituted in Doug's memory. While precise criteria are still in the process of being finalized the basic ideas have been agreed upon. (Donations to the "Doug MacRitchie Memorial Fund" made payable to the Canadian Aviation Historical Society will be acknowledged with tax deductible receipts.) A scholarship will be presented by the CAHS in Doug MacRitchie's name to a top student in the highly regarded Aircraft Maintenance Technician's Course at Centennial College of Applied Arts and Technologies. The College will select the recipient and the presentation will be made at the annual Transport Canada Maintenance Symposium (Ontario Region) by a member of the MacRitchie family.

Within our Society recognition in the form of a scroll and possibly a small honorarium will be given to a member whose involvement has been substantial but unsung. Where our C. Don Long and Research Awards acknowledge our writers and researchers the new award will be for the sort of person whose contribution emulates that made to our Society for so long and in such unselfish fashion by the late Doug MacRitchie.

We tend to think
There is no end,
And then one day
I lost a friend.

- from a poem written by Bruce MacRitchie 6 September 1980 en route to Munich, Germany.

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Doug MacRitchie as an RCAF recruit on a visit to the U.S. A recent shot of Doug (L) and Bruce MacRitchie leaning on the cowling of Doug's Stinson 108, CF-DAF. The bi-plane in the background is Bruce's very rare Fleet 21.
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Doug in summer uniform while on a visit to Niagara Falls in August 1944. Three CAHS members who met at Farnborough in 1978. (L to R) Doug MacRitchie, Jeff Burch and Les Wilkinson.

 All photos of Doug MacRitchie were provided to the Journal by the MacRitchie family and used with permission.

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