Above: 12169 Marc Fraser and 12338 Ritchie Smendziuk in Ottawa celebrating Canada’s 150th birthday near the war memorial.
Article by 12169 Marc “Fraz” Fraser
Photos courtesy of the Class of ’79
One came from a small Manitoba town – the other from Germany via Quebec. One was an Engineer – the other an Artsman. One was in the Air Force – the other in the Army. One was a Roadent – the other a Purebred. They were put on different paths after Graduation and yet they became the best of buddies over the years.
This is indeed how Ritchie “Smedley” and I overcame what could have been obstacles to what bloomed into a great friendship. When I moved from 1 Squadron in the Frigate to 6 Squadron in 3rd Year, I became aware that the Cadet Wing was bigger than the Stone Boat and so I was introduced to many of these strange people coming over from British Columbia. I spent most of 3rd Year getting to know my new “buds”. We had great times going on many “Tim’s runs” and doing what cadets did in those days… I was pleasantly surprised to find out that in our 4th Year, I was going to be a Cadet Section Commander (CSC) with Grover and Mac with Ritchie as our Cadet Flight Leader (CFL). It was a wonderful experience working together with those three guys “shaping” those rooks into tried and true cadets (a mission accomplished). Our reward… I was shipped to Cadet Wing HQ while Ritchie and the gang stayed back in 6 Sqn. I missed them all.
We graduated and we all moved on until that fateful day when I received an email from Ritchie asking me what I thought about holding a separate 6 Sqn Supper at Aqua Terra as part of the upcoming Reunion. What a great idea! We held many of these over the years – maybe 3 or 4? (I can’t quite remember) but I remember working with Ritchie on the menus and reaching out to all the old 6 Sqn Buds. At one of those dinners, I promised Ritchie I would make the trip from London (ON) to Kanata and spend some more time with him. So in the summer of 2014, my wife and I went and had a wonderful time there. I boldly declared that we must do that again and what better time than July 1, 2017….
My wife and I made that fateful trip, which because of traffic took us over 10 hours to make – who would thought everyone was converging on Ottawa. There were stories about Parliament Hill being overcrowded, and line-ups everywhere – the word from the Officials – don’t come downtown. So of course, Ritchie and I had no choice but to hop on a bus and head to Parliament Hill! This has always been my fondest memory of the two of us spending the 150th in downtown Ottawa standing very far from the Hill on a bridge somewhere but loving the atmosphere. We decided to support many of the well-stocked local bars and restaurants and went back to Kanata quite late. Every Canada Day, we would reminisce of that day in Ottawa. We talked many times, and he shared his battle with cancer over the years.
As we organized the 6 Sqn 40th get together I did not know whether Ritchie would make it or not. He did and looked good – I was so happy and optimistic as I saw him smiling when he approached me at the Rook Obstacle race. Unfortunately, he missed the Arch parade and returned to Kanata. Over the past 2 years we texted often, many times after his chemo just to chat and shoot the breeze. His death came too suddenly and this dreaded disease robbed him of his retirement years.
Ritchie, the “Smiling Man” enriched many lives around him and lived as a true Gentleman Cadet we all strive to be. He was a best friend who will be missed by many, especially me. Rest in Peace Buddy.
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