A flyby of two Royal Canadian Airforce (RCAF) CF-18 Hornet fighter jets from 4 Wing Cold Lake highlighted a celebration of life held at the Sheraton Hotel Saturday for a decorated Second World War veteran.
Donald Currie Laubman passed away peacefully at Red Deer Regional Hospital on June 20.
Laubman served as a Spitfire fighter pilot during World War II and was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross and Bar while rising to the rank of lieutenant-general in peacetime.
The CF-18 Hornet is the RCAF’s frontline fighter and employed in many different roles, including air defence, air superiority and tactical support.
RCAF officials say the flyby was the military’s ‘Missing Man’ formation where one plane splits-off from the pack to signify the pilot’s spirit breaking away from the group.
Brigadier General Iain Huddleston, Deputy Commander - Force Generation at 1 Canadian Air Division says the flyby was the RCAF’s way to honour both Don and his wife, Margie.
“Don was a wartime hero but also a post-war commander in the Royal Canadian Air Force who achieved great things,” says Huddleston. “There are many different commands and achievements that he had over the time that he was in the Canadian Forces that we can all look up to as officers and airmen and airwomen of the current Royal Canadian Air Force.
Huddleston says Margie was also a stalwart military spouse who followed Don around the world and they they acknowledge and respect the contributions of the families just as much as those of the member.
“To be exposed to his career and to be exposed to the people who did know him well, to be here to pay my respects and those of the Royal Canadian Air Force and the commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force, it’s just a special thing,” adds Huddleston.
Laubman’s daughter Leslie Marchant of Red Deer says she’s extremely proud of her father’s military career, but even more so of him as a father.
“An amazing father, never had to raise his voice, although he probably should have to me several times,” she joked. “He had that sort of calmness about him and everybody respected him, including his children.”
Marchant says her father was an extremely humble man, but also one of the most celebrated Canadian pilots of the Second World War.
“Certainly the victories he had in the war and fighting for his country, that was a big thing for him,” Marchant recalls. “I think everything that he’s accomplished was equally important to him and proud of. You know, he started the Blue Devils aerobatic team, the RCAF aerobatic team that was a feather in his cap, just immeasurable things along the way that were equally important.”
Marchant says her dad was simply a wonderful, kind, fair and calm man who was a great father.
“He blessed everybody he came into contact with in my opinion. We lost a good one.”
Don Laubman was born in Provost, Alberta on October 16, 1921. His family lived in Camrose and Westlock before settling in Edmonton. After high school, he found a job at a downtown Edmonton grocery store located across the street from the Royal Canadian Air Force recruiting office. Shortly after Canada entered World War II, Laubman visited the office and signed up on December 9, 1939.
He was called up for active duty on Friday, September 13, 1940 and was twice awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in recognition of his leadership abilities, courage and devotion to duty. His aerial combat record during the war earned him the title of Canada’s fourth ranking RCAF ace.
Laubman returned to Canada in 1945 and married Margaret Gibson in 1946. He re-enrolled in the military that same year and rose through the ranks before retiring in 1972 as Lieutenant General and Chief of Personnel of the Canadian Forces.
Upon leaving the Forces, Laubman began a new career with Canadian Tire and managed stores in Thompson, Manitoba and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan before opening the first Canadian Tire store in Red Deer in 1979.
Laubman also played a founding role in the development of many Red Deer area service organizations such as Red Deer and Central Alberta Crime Stoppers, serving as president of the Red Deer Rotary Club, board member of the Red Deer Chamber of Commerce, and founding board member of both the Red Deer Community Foundation and Red Deer Regional Hospital Foundation.
He also served as a board member and chairman of the David Thompson Health Region Foundation and as vice chair of the inaugural board of the Lending Cupboard Society.
Laubman was recognized as Red Deer’s Citizen of the Year in 2005 and was awarded the Alberta Order of Excellence in 2007.
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