Tribute to 8057 Ross McKenzie

No. 8057 Captain (Retd) J.R.(Ross) McKenzie CD.

(Late the Royal Canadian Dragoons and Curator Emeritus, The RMC Museum)

It is with great sadness that we have learned of the passing of Ross McKenzie on Saturday 12 January, 2019. Ross spent much of his long military and civilian career serving the College. Joining the College as a Cadet in 1965, he graduated in 1970, and then spent 15 years in regimental service in a variety of postings. He had returned to the College in 1983 to be Personal Assistant to the Commandant, becoming instead the College Protocol and Information Officer.

By the late 1980s, Ross retired from the RCD to become part-time Curator of the RMC Museum, a position first made permanent shortly thereafter. His other role in the Registrar’s Office was essentially as an information officer and tour co-ordinator. As such, he often acted as a public face of the College, a role that he enjoyed immensely, describing it as ”what other job could give one the opportunity to engage with Ambassadors, senior foreign military, government and academic officials – and a walk-about with Dan Aykroyd?”

The museum curatorial role was, however, his passion that he fulfilled with great dedication for the next 25 years, finally retiring in 2015 and honoured as “Curator Emeritus” for his long years of service. His enthusiasm led to greater knowledge of the ‘Story of RMC’ as he and Prof Jack Pike worked together to build the Collections, to record the stories of the exhibits, and using these stories, to build a basis for the broader understanding of the personalities – the Ex-Cadets, Faculty and Staff, who built the College, and the University of to-day, from which institution he held two degrees – an undergraduate one in History and the other , a post-graduate one in War Studies..

He was one of those personalities. Over time he became ‘the Historian’ recording the stories of College life and nation-building over the years, the ‘go-to-guy’ on how things had developed over time. Ross McKenzie was also a pioneer in the guardianship, exposure and conservation of the many elements and collections that make up RMC’s marvellous heritage and history. During the lean years in which the Museum had few resources, Ross’ contribution was to “keep the flame” and help move the collections and Museum toward a professional standard. Two items highlight his successes: designing and building the current high-capacity storage facility and weapons vault in Fort Haldimand when the renovation to that dormitory made the old swimming pool space available for the Museum; and as one of many, but a leader in the inclusion of the Kingston Fortifications as part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, especially of the role of Point Frederick, from Naval Dockyard to Royal Military College, world recognition of a place of historical and cultural heritage

Ross was a good scholar and story teller whose curiosity and writing ability uncovered many interesting aspects of RMC’s history. In answer to a request from the Indian Military History Society (IMHS), he and 25107 Vicki Farr wrote a brief summary of the stories of Ex-Cadets commissioned directly into the Indian Army (not the British Army in India – a very different organization) for publication in Durbar, Volume 29 , No 3, Autumn 2012. He fought on behalf of Billy Bishop, VC, to guarantee the truth of his RMC career. Most recently, he was part of a group looking at the age of the Commandant’s House. .For the many years that he guided the Museum he was also a very active, well known member in Kingston’s History and Museums groups, and others at the Provincial and National levels, constantly promoting this institution as an important and integral part of the larger community.

He created a legacy of learning and education, and for this he must be acknowledged and thanked by the current Heritage & Museum Committee of the RMC Museum.

S124 RG Haycock

H3572 FJ Norman

***Editor’s Note***

As of press-time no date for a public memorial has been chosen. We expect it to be sometime in February. Once the date and place are confirmed we will update e-Veritas.

5 Comments

  • André Corriveau.

    January 21, 2019 at 12:32 pm

    this is a sad news. Ross always had a positive attitude. Never lost his cool. Always had a smile on his face. Had a good sense of humour. And always “looked around” for opportunities to improve the operation of the RMC museum and the capacity of its storage space. With the approval of the program to rehabilitate the existing dormitories, the opportunity to move some functions around showed up. The Stone Frigate had been designated as the first dormitory to be renovated; Fort Haldimand, as the second one. By then, the swimming pool in Fort Haldimand had been abandoned. Ross asked me if he could have the space for “his” museum storage. I immediately approved. A few days later, he gave me his plan for the use of the space. It was immediately incorporated in the dormitory rehabilitation project; which was completed a few years later. Ross was definitely an asset while working at RMC; looking after its history and heritage. He will be missed by many.

  • Doug MacQuarrie

    January 21, 2019 at 2:05 pm

    I first met Ross in Borden in the summer of ’66. We were there for out Phase I Army officer training when it was run by the Service Corps School. We were room mates by virtue of having sir names close together alphabetically. Ross attended RMC in his first year and I was a Rodent so that’s why we never met before that summer. We became good friends from the start. One long weekend Ross was good enough to invite me to his home in the Toronto area where I had to pleasure of spending time with his family and close friends. We lost contact after graduation but I followed his career back at RMC with great interest. It saddens me greatly to learn of his passing. His kind disposition and unending enthusiasm will be sorely missed by all. RIP Ross. God be with you!

  • 13789 Darren Rich

    January 21, 2019 at 2:20 pm

    This is indeed very sad news. I echo Andre’s comments (above). Along with Andre and a whole host of others, too numerous to name, I had the privilege of working alongside Ross. Yes, his ‘coup’ to scoop the Fort Haldimand swimming pool for the RMCC Museum was a master stroke! I will also never forget the day he appeared in my office with the RRMC Colours, not the second set that is laid up in Christ Church Cathedral in Victoria, but the original Colours that hung above the lobby of Hatley Castle. As the RMCC Commandant of the day was also a Roadent, and we had links to the RRU staff, it was decided to repatriate those venerable Colours to RRU.

    In addition to his “Red and White” duties and responsibilities Ross was also an invaluable member of the Monuments and Memorials Committee. We could always rely upon him and Dr. Pike for sage and measured advise on everything from Memorial Benches to the Wall of Honour to the upkeep and maintenance of the various artefacts and other historical items around Point Frederick.

    His plan to remodel the Currie Staircase to Currie Hall was also noteworthy as was his involvement with the Mackenzie Conference Room in the basement during the renovations of the Mackenzie building basement.

    A personal highlight was the day I was walking back from the Senior Staff Mess with a Fourth-year Naval Cadet, when we spied Ross and none other than Don Cherry, walking up the stairs into the Mackenzie Building to view the Memorial Stairway. I asked the NCdt if she wished to meet Don – to which she enthusiastically replied yes, and we hustled over to interrupt Ross and Don. Yes, Don was very gracious and polite, quite unlike his television persona, and we then left them to their business.

    Ross will be missed by each and everyone of us who have ever crossed his path. It is indeed a sad day for all of us, RMCC and Canada.

  • Mark Wilson

    January 21, 2019 at 5:56 pm

    Ross and I went to Gordon Graydon Secondary in the 1960s together. I remember when he was going to “some” military college and then lost touch with him. I next met Ross at the Kaserne in Lahr West Germany in 1978, he was on one of the fall exercises. I was working as a planner for the base. I took him around Lahr and to some of the social events. The next time we met was when my wife and I were touring North America and dropped into RMC and visited the museum, where Ross took us on a tour, which my wife and I enjoyed. We are saddened by his passing.

  • Matt Oliver

    January 21, 2019 at 9:21 pm

    When I arrived at RMC from RRMC in 1985, on in-clearance was told by one of the OR staff that they had been waiting for me, and that I was to immediately report to the Captain. When I arrived at the office (wondering what I had done without realizing it), I discovered it was Ross (my father’s cousin). A most memorable welcome. In more recent communication I related the story to Ross as one of my fond memories of arriving at RMC. Ross admitted having been troubled afterwards for playing such a trick on me, and was happy to hear I recalled it positively.