« I used to watch the caravans descend on Lawrence River Street. This is what I lived for. One day I dreamed of being out in the sea. ”
Growing up in Quebec City, Jean-Louis Roy used to watch ships roaming the St. Lawrence River and dreaming of what life would be like at sea, far from the landscape of land
He was 12 years old when Canada entered World War II in September 1939. The river was filled with troops and supply ships bound for Europe, and he settled on a career in the Navy
“I used to watch caravans descend on Lawrence River Street,” Roy, who turned 94 recently, recalls “That’s what I lived for One day I dreamed of going out in the sea and not seeing the horizon, seeing nothing at all, just the ordinary sea around me, no housing, no trees, no telephone poles
Roy would get this opportunity as a Royal Canadian Navy officer who served in the Korean War, and visited ports around the world: everywhere from Mumbai to New York, and from Trondheim to Karachi
Now a resident of Perley and Rideau Veterans Health Center, he still dreams of his days in the open ocean
Roy was not from a family working in the seas. His father worked as a supervisor at a manufacturing company in Quebec City, and his uncle, a soldier, died in the Battle of Femi Ridge Quebec City itself was filled with foot soldiers from the 22nd Royal Regiment, the legendary Van Doss
But Roy was not interested in the military. In 1945, at the age of nineteen, he joined the Navy Reserve and joined the Training Department as a candidate officer who studied commerce at Laval University, saying, « The Navy was in my head the whole time »
The Canadian Navy spoke mainly English at the time, and Roy learned the language to further his career (he is now more comfortable in English than French)
As a member of the Naval Reserve each summer sailing a different ship in his first summer, he was aboard HMCS Warrior, an aircraft carrier on loan from the British Royal Navy, when it ran aground at St Lawrence River tripped the helm on its way to Montreal.
“Fortunately we hit the sand,” Roy recalls, “But we were stuck, the tide came and that’s what saved us: the 15-foot tide.”
The ship was forced to retreat to Quebec City to inspect its hull (Canada acquired the vessel on loan from the British with an option to purchase it; the aircraft carrier eventually returned because it lacked the heating systems needed for Canadian waters)
Roy received his commission as a secondary lieutenant in 1950, and served aboard the HMCS Huron in the final stages of the Korean War
During that war, Canadian ships were assigned to the country’s west coast, bombing enemy communications and supply lines. The main target was the North-South railway line in North Korea known as the Byungra Line, which overlooked the coast
While aboard HMCS Huron, Roy wrote a series of letters to a woman, named Marjorie, whom he had met at a park party last summer the two got married while Roy was on vacation during Christmas 1955
They had three children, but the marine’s demands did not always coincide with family life. “I had to choose between my family and the navy,” Roy says.
He moved into logistics and spent less time at sea, but he thinks the decision will likely cost him a promotion, retired from the Navy to the rank of Lieutenant in 1973, and entered public service
After fully retiring, he settled in the Ryan Farm neighborhood in Ottawa, doing gardening, traveling and playing bridge about 10 years ago, Marjorie started developing Alzheimer’s disease Roy took care of her at home as long as he was able to manage it he would sometimes follow her in the car when she wandered away Then he pulls side to side when she stops to look around he says, « Okay meadow, let’s go home. »
Two years ago, they both moved to Perley and Rideau Veterans. Marjorie is in Gatineau’s dementia residence, while Roy is in the nearby residence of Rideau.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic spread, he could visit every day, view her photos on his iPad, and play some of the band’s great songs The pandemic imposed new restrictions, and he hasn’t seen Marjorie in a month
Marjorie still recognizes him as her husband, says Roy, “She doesn’t say much, so I don’t ask questions anymore” “I just say things”
The epidemic has also forced changes to this year’s Memorial Day celebration, which will be held outside at the health center memorial. The mini-event will be broadcast live for those inside the facility
Roy will watch to say that his career in the Navy has given him discipline, companionship and purpose – and an unforgettable place on the boundless sea
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