La Chasse-Galerie & 5893 Dr. Thomas Gee

“Logo courtesy of Sleeman/Unibroue”

 

E3161 Victoria Edwards (RMC 2003) interviewed 5893 Doctor Thomas Gee (RRMC 1963), one of fifteen Ex-Cadets who will raise money for the Danny McLeod Athletic Endowment Fund by paddling a voyageur canoe from Ottawa to Kingston this September, 2011. You can make a pledge or donation at www.rmcclubfoundation.ca. To support Tom Gee on his 2011 Rideau Canoe Trip: RMC Club Foundation 1-800-541-6000 ext. 6807

Victoria Edwards: This will be your 3rd fund-raising canoe trip down the Rideau. What is your role?

Tom Gee: This is my 3rd Chasse-Galerie.  8788 Geoff Bennett (bourgeois), the instigator of Chaisse-Gallerie, contacted me in 2001, and again in 2006 and 2011, to crew. In the past, I performed scribe duties such as writing a historical record of the trip and taking photographs.

This year, Geoff asked me to be bosun, traditionally a crew member responsible for keeping the hull, rigging and sails in good repair. Basically, I will look after the canoe with regard to balanced loading and seating. I will ensure that the paddling skills of the crew are adequate. I will be responsible for manning the sweep oar in “heavy seas.” The role of bosun is ironic, since I was Naval Air in the service, partially to avoid sea duties.

 

Victoria Edwards: Outline your canoeing experience?

Tom Gee: I didn’t start canoeing until sometime in the early ‘70s when I was in my 30s, teaching high school English in Cochrane, Alberta.  I and another English teacher bought our first canoe and taught ourselves the basics on the Bow River in Calgary.  That summer, we canoed and fished the Bowron Lakes circuit in north central British Columbia.  From then on I was hooked.  In the succeeding 10 years or so, along with another young teaching buddy – we were, in those days, young! — I took high school boys into the Bowron on pseudo-Outward Bound canoe trips in canoes we built ourselves in the school’s shop.  Subsequently, I canoed that circuit with my own two boys as they came of age, and a group of half a dozen Americans I came to know through canoeing.  Later, I branched out with a classmate, 5899 Rob Gray, and the Americans to run the Spatsizi-Stikine Rivers in northern B.C. I’ve also paddled the Red Deer and Wapiti Rivers in Alberta; and now, for the third time, the beautiful Rideau/Cataraqui Rivers with RMC ex-cadets, fundraising for the College varsity sports program and the Danny McLeod Athletic Fund.  It’s been, for me, a sport that’s endured through 40 years…, so far. Canoeing the “last great circle route” out of Burns Lake(Ootsa) with Rob Gray is still on my “bucket list”.

Victoria Edwards: Why was it important to you to support the Athletic Endowment Fund, which was named in honour of S109 Major Danny McLeod?

Tom Gee: I support the “margin of excellence” as much as I’m able — the good things that DND cannot be expected to fund.  I participated in varsity programs at College; principally, rep. gymnastics & rep. swimming. 5943 Ira Rote started a gymnastics club at RRMC. The RMC gymnastics team participation in the Ottawa-St. Lawrence (OSLAA) was a highlight for me, much more than academics, military, or language pillars, to be honest.  I have lots of stories, most not fit for polite publication. I remember scuba diving under the ice in Navy Bay and swim team exploits. I was delighted when Dr. Waters taught me (finally) to love English, and to write a decent essay.

In the summer months now, I stay busy windsurfing, kayaking and motorcycling. In the winter, I enjoy skiing, snowboarding, ice surfing, and curling. Three mornings a week, I go to the local gym for 1-1 1/2 hours of aerobics, weights and machines.

Victoria Edwards: E-veritas readers know the history of the Old 18, referring to the first class of cadets accepted into RMC on June 1, 1876. At RRMC you were a member of the `Terrible 10`?

Tom Gee: I was a member of the first class to take Arts as a degree program, a concept of Dr. Cook, Director of Studies at Royal Roads. Fifty years ago is hard for me to be certain of now, but I think the “terrible ten” were the first English majors in 1960, in our second year at Roads. I realized in first year at Royal Roads that I was not academically gifted and was not destined to be an engineer. I found pure math and integral calculus interesting, but I struggled to apply differential calculus to what I was learning in Physics and Electricity courses. I don’t think I mastered the slide rule in first year Roads either, and struggled through a supplemental exam in first year Electrical Physics. The left hand and right hand rule, a common mnemonic for understanding notation conventions for vectors in 3 dimensions in Mathematics and Physics, completely eluded me. Dr. Cook’s new Arts Programme had a high proportion of time devoted to Mathematics and Science anyway… just to be safe. I graduated with a BA (English) in ’63 from RMC, with a minor in History, I believe.

Victoria Edwards: During the Cold War, you served as a naval pilot tracking submarines.

Tom Gee: I flew a de Havilland built version of the Grumman Tracker CS2F-1, which was a folding wing twin, carrier-based antisubmarine search and attack aircraft. I served aboard the aircraft carrier HMCS Bonaventure and flew shore patrol from Shearwater, NS. We generally worked with the British subs such as HMS Algernon, and various American submarines. During the Cold War we tracked submarines by their faint acoustic signals using Julie sonobuoys, which we would drop from the plane to detect the subs.  As navigator/co-pilot, I plotted the sub’s location on my lapboard, based on the signals we picked up from the sonobuoys. We would fly over the sub, once detected, with Julie and our onboard MAD (Magnetic Airborne Detection) gear –the subs were steaming away as fast as possible– to mark its spot with a line of smoke floats. Although our bay carried two homing torpedoes, our torpedoes were not armed with warheads. We also worked with shore-based monitoring stations (SOSSUS) and anti-submarine helicopters operating from DDH destroyers. The Sea Kings carried Sound Navigation and Ranging (SONAR) equipment. Our crew once tracked a Russian ELINT (Electronic Intelligence) sub which originated from Murmansk on the North Sea, and was plying the North American coast listen to radio traffic. After we tracked the sub off the coast of Newfoundland and south of Nova Scotia for 6 hours (our duration), American trackers flew out and bombed it with depth charges and forced it to the surface and into an American port.

During the Unification of the Forces in late 1966, it was unclear where naval pilots would end up, and I didn’t want to go to sea as a ship’s officer. So I opted to leave the service 3 years after graduation rather than sign on for a 20 year hitch. I started a Bachelor of Education After Degree program at the University of Calgary, but finished as a MEd.

Victoria Edwards: You became a teacher.

Tom Gee: I taught high school English Language/ Literature in Airdree and Cochrane, Alberta, 1967-75. My wife taught in Springbank, Alberta, in the same school system. I later earned a Masters of Education at the University of Calgary. I also taught Creative Writing at the University of Alberta while on sabbatical from the Alberta Department of Education to complete a PhD.

Victoria Edwards: You served as a bureaucrat with the Department of Education, Government of Alberta 1975-’96.

Tom Gee: I started as a language arts consultant in 1975 in Grande Prairie and retired as a Director of The Secretariat in the Edmonton central office in 1996. My wife was the Deputy Superintendant of Grand Prairie County and Associate Superintendant of Strathcona County. Alberta Education supports the needs of nearly 600,000 students, parents, teachers and administrators from Early Childhood Services (ECS) through Grade 12.

Victoria Edwards: You retired in 1996.

Tom Gee: When my wife and I retired in 1996, we planned to build a property on Gabriola Island, one of the Gulf Islands in the Strait of Georgia. However, since my mother needed assistance, we opted to build a house in Osoyoos, B.C. instead. We joined organizations there: my wife organized the Osayoos dragon boat club; I joined the Osoyoos Desert Centre. We have two sons and five grandchildren, all thriving. Our youngest son is the president of a gas company while our older son is the president and personnel manager of his own technology company. My wife and I split up recently.

Victoria Edwards: In 2003, you proposed the Wall of Honour as your Class’ 63 gift to the College on the occasion of your joining the Old Brigade in 2009, and then worked as Secretary to an inner group who brought it to fruition.

Tom Gee: As Class’ 63 secretary, I’m still in touch with the majority of my classmates still living — we have our own yahoo-groups reflector [email protected] run by classmate 5909 Maj (Ret`d) Ted King. I worked closely with a few members of the class to built the Wall of Honour and in the selection and write-ups of the honourees: 5868 LGen (Ret’d) Scott Clements, 5846 Peter Watson & 5758 Cdr (Ret’d) Michael Morres, 5675 Dennis Apedaile, 5877 Captain (N) (Ret’d) Ted Davie, 5629 Major (Ret’d) Jacques Duval, 5906 Dr. Arthur Hunter, and myself.

I would like to single out for special mention 5877 Captain (N) (Ret’d) Ted Davie, of nearby Adolphstown, Ontario, who recommended an alternate location taking advantage of a DND decision to upgrade and widen Veritas Avenue when the road to the Arch by the water wasn’t suitable (Indian artefacts were found there during an archaeological dig). Ted recommended building and cladding the entire wall all at once since it was more economical than a sectional approach. He oversaw the construction and stone cladding of the 133 foot wall, and later installed complementary benches, lighting, and landscaping. Ted saved us time and money by ordering the plaques directly from a brass foundry that casts the plaques in Australia.  I’d also like to mention 5723 Tony Tucker, our Class artist, who produced a series of artistic renderings of the project.

Victoria Edwards: What was the inspiration for the RMC Wall of Honour?

Tom Gee: A few years before my class joined the old brigade in 2009, we considered various gifts before settling on the wall of honour; for example, band instruments; an endowed professorship to support the academic pillar; or sculls to support the athletic pillar.

The inspiration of the RMC wall of honour occurred on a tour of the U-boat memorial near Kiel, Germany. The front area of the U boat memorial site consists of a large open space with a natural-stone surface surrounded by a low wall. In the halls of honour as well as in a corridor bronze memorial plates arranged in a semicircular form bear the names of the 35,352 dead German U-boat men (939 lost U boats) in World War I & II. I proposed a sinuous-curved RMC wall of honour on campus grounds because it offered more wall in less space with increased strength. Up to this point, RMC did not have a prominent display honouring its “greats”, of which we have many, both military and civilian.

Candidates for the Wall must have a College number, have achieved something of extraordinary significance at the national or international level, and they must reflect the qualities of Truth, Duty and Valour in their personal and professional lives. If you would like to nominate someone, please complete a nomination form on the RMC Club website. The Class handed responsibility of the monument over to the college administration but agreed to handle the logistics for ten years. I like to see the College traditions incorporating the monument; for example the Arch parade now circles the Wall of Honour. I attended the 2009 inauguration of the Wall, and will paddle into Kingston in time for the legacy dinner and installation of the plaques for the 2011 honourees. The Wall will help inform and inspire cadets long into the future. We have had donations of all sizes – all gratefully received.

Victoria Edwards: Outline the Old Brigade Biography Project.

Tom Gee: The title of our Class book is `The RMC Class of ’63 Old Brigade Biographies, a Half-Century of Experience`. 5721 Col (Ret’d) Fred Carpenter was the instigator and the editor-in-chief, and edited many of the individual bios and wrote many of the articles. Jacques Duval edited the French language bios and looked after the finances, and I edited the English, and wrote the Wall article. Classmate 5923 Major (Ret’d) Jim McNeill offered his company’s website for the lay-up, and significant start-up funding.

Victoria Edwards: You volunteer with the Osoyoos Desert Center (ODC) (www.desert.org).

Tom Gee: I have been a director on the board of the Osoyoos Desert Society for the past 10 years, a non-profit society that was founded in 1991 to conserve the biologically rich and diverse habitats of B.C.’s southern interior. I am also a tour guide at the Osoyoos Desert Center, a 67 acre nature interpretive facility where visitors can learn about desert ecology, habitat restoration and conservation of endangered ecosystems in the South Okanagan. Guests are invited to explore Canada’s desert by taking a guided or self-guided tour along a 1.5 km elevated wooden boardwalk. In addition, the Centre features an interpretive facility with hands-on exhibits and a native plant demonstration garden. Visitors can also browse through our Gift Shop, enjoy a snack in the outdoor picnic area, or relax at one of the kiosks and take in the spectacular views. The Osoyoos Desert Centre, located 3 km north of Osoyoos off Highway 97, is open annually from late April through early October and hosts approximately 10,000 visitors annually from all over the world.

I ride my motorcycle all over southern B.C. in the Spring delivering rack cards to Visitor Information Centers (VICs) for the ODC.  On Friday May 27th, I rode from Osoyoos to Trail/Castlegar, hitting all the towns between which have VICs.  On May 24th, I did the same north up the valley to Kamloops. On May 29th, I travelled west to Keremeos and Princeton and north of there to Merritt where the temperature was a cold .5 degrees with a miserable mixture of hail, snow and rain. I ended my trip in Peachland where the temperature was 25 above and folks wearing shorts were drinking their iced coffees on the beach. Altogether about two dozen communities have VICs in the southern interior.  I get to ride and the ODC gets their cards delivered, win-win.

Victoria Edwards: I understand you ride the `Cadillac` of bikes. Any lessons learned?

Tom Gee: Yes. I took up riding in 1980, when I was forty years old. I currently ride a black and silver BMW K1200LT, a touring motorcycle with electrically elevating windshield, hydraulic center stand, heated seats and handgrips, radio/intercom and CD player, saddle bags and a rear trunk.  I have crashed other touring bikes a few times, but did not kill myself. Now, I recommend the use of a GPS for old guys like me, so we don’t get lost. I also recommend riding with a buddy, ideally with a similar skill level and touring objectives. I generally travel with a friend from town, who also rides a BMW.

I’ve just started the second leg of my June coast-to-coast motorcycle ride, part of my “bucket list”.  In May, I rode east from Victoria to Osoyoos. With the higher snow packs, there is increase risk of flooding‎ this year, for example in the Kettle Valley, in the southern interior of B.C. On June 2, I rode to my kids’ in Calgary. From there, I travelled across the prairies into North Dakota, Wisconsin and Michigan for three days, to a friend’s in London, Ontario. With excessive snowmelt and excessive rainfall, there is flooding through much of North Dakota. From London, I will ride a couple days to Rob Gray’s in Nova Scotia, to go fishing. : )  With any luck, the flooding, for example of the Richelieu River in St. Jean, Quebec will have receded by the time I return west.

Victoria Edwards: You participated in the 35th Annual Three Flags Classic Tour 2010.

Tom Gee: The Southern California Motorcycling Association (SCMA) holds America’s Premier annual motorcycling touring event. The Three Flags Classic provides a suggested route each year from Canadian through the US to Mexico, or vice versa, and requires that you pass through three or four check points during a set time frame. The riders spread out over several states during the course of the event. The underlying spirit of the ride is that all riders are goodwill ambassadors from their respective countries. In 2010, the route was from Regina, Saskatchewan to Nogales, Mexico, with checkpoints in Deadwood, South Dakota; Taos, New Mexico; and Springerville, Arizona. One highlight included 150 miles of twisty switchback roads on Highway 191 south from Springerville. We did the tour in 5.5 days, arriving 1.5 days before the last bike got in; and it took us a further 2.5 days to come home.

I won’t be able to make the 3-Flags tour this Sept, 2011, which starts in Tijuana, MX and  finishes in Penticton, B.C., since I will be canoeing along the Rideau River. [email protected]

 

Our aim at e-Veritas is to conduct one-on-one interviews with all 15 participants (in no particular order) over the next few months of e-Veritas editions.

Class of 1960 4815 Mike Jackson

Class of 1960 H4860 John de Chastelain

Class of 1963 5893 Tom Gee

Class of 1968 H7543 Joe Day

Class of 1971 8684 Peter Holt

Class of 1971 8725 Fergus McLaughlin

Class of 1971 8788 Geoff Bennett

Class of 1971 8816 Marius Grinius

Class of 1971 8833 John Leggat

Class of 1971 8926 Ray Hook

Class of 1972 9143 Bruce McAlpine

Class of 1983 M0288 Roxanne Rees

Class of 1986 15414 Catherine Paquet-Rivard

Class of 1997 20800 Cindy McAlpine

Class of 2002 22461 Claire Bramma