Bruce Victor Johnston was born in the Town of Carman on April 13, 1926 to Frank William Johnston and Ida Gertrude Faulkes Johnston. His father worked for the Canadian Pacific Railway and moved his family to Gretna when Dad was a very young child. The Town of Gretna was established along the line of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1881.
Dad’s paternal grandparents lived in Carman and from a young age, Dad would routinely take the train from Gretna to Carman to visit them all by himself. His grandmother would prepare him a meal and after visiting with her, he would hop on the train for the ride back home to Gretna. Since his father worked for Canada Pacific Railway (for 40 years), Dad could travel for free.
When Dad was still a teen, he worked for Canadian Pacific Railway in Gretna as well as in Vancouver.
At the age of 17, with Canada involved in World War II, Dad wanted nothing more than to serve his country. He joined the Canadian Armed Forces only to be sent back home when it was discovered he was too young. Determined, Dad changed the date on his birth certificate and reapplied. This time Dad was successful as it was deemed that he was close enough to the age of 18.
Dad trained at the Canadian Forces Base Shilo. After training, his Captain sent him to Woodstock, Ontario, to learn how to operate a military vehicle. His Captain told him that he had already lost seven young Canadian soldiers on their first day in battle. The Captain purposefully sent Dad to Woodstock to delay his dispatch overseas and said to Dad, “After that, whatever they do with you, I can’t help.”
Next Dad went to a Canadian Forces station at Camp Debert, Truro, Nova Scotia where he received infantry training in preparation for the move overseas. The war in Europe ended, however, and Dad was given 30 days leave which he spent with his family back home in Gretna. During that time, he heard that 30,000 soldiers were needed to fight in the Pacific. Against his mother’s wishes, he boarded a troop train to Vernon, British Columbia, where the Canadian Army Pacific Force (CAPF) training base was located. But then the war was declared over and Dad once again returned home by train. Not being able to serve overseas remained a lifelong disappointment for Dad.
While waiting for his discharge, Dad lived at the Fort Osborne Barracks and attended classes at the University of Manitoba where he completed his grade 10.
For a few years, Dad worked at a mine in Red Lake, Ontario. As a result of a serious accident, Dad fractured all of the bones in one of his hands. When he was 25, on a visit home, he was offered a job working for InterProvincial Pipe Line which had a station in Gretna. Dad worked for IPL (now called Enbridge) for more than 37 years, retiring in 1989 as pipeline foreman. He enjoyed his job very much.
In 1968, Dad attended a servicemen’s banquet in Winnipeg. There he met his future wife, Bernice McKenna, a young widow with four children between the ages of 10 and 14. After a three month courtship, Dad married our Mom. We left our home in Winnipeg in the Spring of 1968 for our new home in Gretna.
Dad was a wonderful and loving husband to our Mother and the dearest possible Dad, grandfather, and great grandfather. His kind, gentle, and stoic nature was always present. We were truly blessed from the day he came into our lives.
Dad passed away at Golden Door Geriatric Centre in Winnipeg on January 27, 2019. He was 92 years. He will be sadly missed.
A memorial service conducted by Reverend Kevin MacDonald will be held in Gretna on Sunday, February 24th, 3 p.m. at the Gretna Prairie Centre, 597 Hespeler Avenue, Gretna. Burial will take place at Brookside Cemetery.
To send flowers to the family of Bruce Johnston, please visit our Heartfelt Sympathies Store.