Mu­seum di­rec­tor to re­ceive Sovereign’s Medal for Vol­un­teers

Prairie Post (East Edition) - - Prairies - BY HEATHER CAMERON

Bomber Com­mand Mu­seum Di­rec­tor and Halifax 57 Res­cue project man­ager, Karl Kjars­gaard is set to re­ceive the Sovereign’s Medal for Vol­un­teers.

Ac­cord­ing to Stephanie Mil­li­gan Pro­gram Man­ager for the Sovereign’s Medal for Vol­un­teers, the Sovereign’s Medal is ad­min­is­tered by the Of­fice of the Gover­nor Gen­eral, is part of the Cana­dian Hon­ours Sys­tem, and cel­e­brates ex­cep­tional vol­un­teer achieve­ments in a wide range of fields.

Ac­cord­ing to the web­site: "The Sovereign’s Medal for Vol­un­teers rec­og­nizes the ex­cep­tional vol­un­teer achieve­ments of Cana­di­ans from across the coun­try in a wide range of fields.

As an of­fi­cial Cana­dian hon­our, the Medal for Vol­un­teers in­cor­po­rates and re­places the Gover­nor Gen­eral’s Car­ing Cana­dian Award, cre­ated in 1995, by thenGover­nor Gen­eral the Right Honourable Roméo LeBlanc. The Medal builds on the legacy and spirit of the Car­ing Cana­dian Award by hon­our­ing the ded­i­ca­tion and com­mit­ment of vol­un­teers."

“It's a pat on the back,” Kjars­gaard said. “It's a recog­ni­tion of course, but I take it this award as a team award be­cause there's so many keen peo­ple here work­ing on var­i­ous air­craft.”

Kjars­gaard was born and raised in Moose Jaw, Saskatchew­an and went to high school in White Rock, B.C. be­fore go­ing to fly­ing col­lege in the early 70s.

“When I was grow­ing up from 1951 on­wards, all these Air Force airplanes were fly­ing over­head, so it was al­most like I was im­printed with the air­craft and fly­ing,” Kjars­gaard said. “Ever since I was a kid, I al­ways wanted to be a pi­lot, but I couldn't get into the mil­i­tary be­cause they were down­siz­ing. So, uh, I went to a civil­ian fly­ing col­lege in­stead.”

Af­ter grad­u­at­ing from flight school, Kjars­gaard was a bush pi­lot up in Yel­lowknife for two years and was then hired on by Cana­dian Pa­cific Air­lines. Cana­dian Pa­cific Air­lines later merged into Air Canada, which is where Kjars­gaard spent 37 years work­ing as a licensed pi­lot.

Af­ter re­tir­ing in 2005, Kjars­gaard re­tired from Air Canada and moved to Nan­ton be­cause he had heard of the Nan­ton Lan­caster's So­ci­ety and wanted to be a part of mu­seum.

“They have a good rep­u­ta­tion,” Kjars­gaard said. “Their col­lec­tion was build­ing, and they were pro­gres­sive minded and just a good bunch of hard work­ers. The more I com­pared them with other mu­se­ums, I de­cided I liked them.”

Kjars­gaard has been in­volved with mu­se­ums since 1994 and started out when he as­sisted with the re­cov­ery of an in­tact Halifax bomber from a lake in Nor­way. That plane was brought to the Na­tional Air Force Mu­seum in Canada, which is Tren­ton, On­tario, and re­built. Kjars­gaard also helped with an­other re­cov­ery in 1997 when a crashed Halifax bomber was res­cued from Bel­gium with the pur­pose of re­cov­er­ing the body of miss­ing Cana­dian air­men. The bod­ies, Kjars­gaard said, were suc­cess­fully re­cov­ered and re­turned to their fam­i­lies.

“10,500 Cana­dian air­men were killed in bombers and 70% of our bomber com­bat was done on the Halifax bombers,” Kjars­gaard said. “It’s great we have a Lan­caster in our mu­seum, but if you knew that 70% of our air­men who were killed in com­bat or Cana­dian boys were killed in Halifax bombers, what air­plane would you like to see added to the col­lec­tion?”

Kjars­gaard says that his goal is to re­store a Halifax bomber and that goal is shared by the Bomber Com­mand Mu­seum in Nan­ton. Though the air­craft is cur­rently in pieces, the even­tual goal is to put it all to­gether and have it on dis­play at the mu­seum.

“Most of the in­struc­tors that taught me how to fly my pri­vate li­cense were com­bat pi­lots in World War Two,” Kjars­gaard said. “They kind of im­printed me with fas­ci­nat­ing sto­ries about what hap­pened and that kind of stim­u­lated me to re­search the his­tory. That's how I got started on dig­ging into the his­tory and got in­spired to en­gage in the work that I do now.”

Kjars­gaard says that he was nom­i­nated for the Sovereign’s Medal for Vol­un­teers be­cause the Le­gion Branch in Nan­ton was al­lowed to give a nom­i­nee from vol­un­teers within Nan­ton. The other two nom­i­nees have al­ready been awarded their medals and Kjars­gaard is wait­ing to hear how he will be pre­sented with his award.

“The Halifax just hap­pens to be my spe­cialty, but there's a Lan­caster team and we're all work­ing hard, to make this be a won­der­ful memo­rial mu­seum for all the guys that were killed in com­bat,” Kjars­gaard said. “For that rea­son, I take this medal as a team award and I do it on be­half of all of our ded­i­cated peo­ple here at the mu­seum.”

Kjars­gaard con­sid­ers his work with Halifax Bombers a ca­reer be­cause it's so im­por­tant to Cana­dian his­tory. His per­sonal view is that the Halifax bomber is a na­tional sym­bol to Canada and be­cause of that, he has a char­ity called Halifax 57 Res­cue (Canada) that is rais­ing money to re­trieve a Halifax Bomber from the Baltic Sea. Kjars­gaard in­vites any­one who wants to con­trib­ute to the char­ity to visit: https://fun­ Rk­tKmI8y7BKR­k­tKmI8y

“I think of these re­cov­er­ies as ac­com­plish­ments and I want to keep do­ing this as long as I can,” Kjars­gaard said. “It's an honor­able call­ing, it's a good goal, and these guys here at Nan­ton are a very tal­ented and unique team.”

Photo contribute­d

Karl Kjars­gaard stands with the Halifax parts re­cov­ered in Malta for the Bomber Com­mand Mu­seum in Nan­ton.

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