MCKENZIE, Thomas, MCpl (Ret’d), Vehicle Tech

The following is provided courtesy of Toronto Metro News:

McKenzie

Shawn Stewart gives comfort to Leslie McArthur at the funeral of her brother former Master Cpl. Thomas McKenzie in Strathmore, Alta. on Saturday Dec. 9, 2017.

STRATHMORE, Alta. — Former Master Cpl. Thomas McKenzie was a solitary man almost to the end of his life.  McKenzie, 55, was a Canadian Forces vehicle tech for 12 years before leaving the military.  For the past decade he has been alone, with just a single friend and no contact with estranged family members until his plight was raised by a nurse who was providing palliative care for him in the town of Strathmore, about 70 kilometres east of Calgary. 

The nurse contacted members of Calgary’s military community asking for veterans to sit with him so he wouldn’t die alone of throat cancer.  “I was a reservist medic and the first thing you learn is no one dies alone and I couldn’t bear for this guy to die alone in my hospital when I knew we could do better,” said Nicki Armstrong, a retired corporal who attended the memorial.  “At the end of my shift I posted ‘he’s got nobody’ and by the time I woke up it had gone to Newfoundland and back and someone was at his bedside.”   

That same group arranged a memorial for McKenzie at the Kinsmen pavilion in Strathmore on Saturday.  “No veteran should ever be alone and no veteran should ever die alone. We need to take care of each other,” said Heather Vanderveer, a member of the volunteer Ghost Squadron in Calgary.  “There’s so many that fall between the cracks and there’s some that are so angry at the military afterward they want nothing to do (with it).

Vanderveer and her husband Scott helped organize the memorial and with the costs of the funeral. They also arranged for a Quilt of Valour, a handmade quilt given to military members expressing gratitude for their sacrifice to Canada, be prepared for him.  Vanderveer was one of those with McKenzie when he died.  “We wrapped him in a Quilt of Valour and we told him that the people of Canada loved him and cared for him.” 

Retired Canadian Forces Maj. C.J. Wallace had McKenzie as his driver when he was stationed in Calgary in the mid-1980s.  He said he was proud, a perfectionist and “a good soldier”.  He tried to track him down a decade later.  “I guess about 1998 I started looking for him again and had gone through about three-quarters of the T. McKenzie’s in the Calgary phone book but couldn’t find him unfortunately,” said Wallace.  He wasn’t surprised McKenzie had cut off all contact from friends and family for the past 10 years of his life.  “I somewhat know how he feels and I do the same thing. I disappear down in Texas for six months down into the backwoods.”

It had been 10 years since Leslie McArthur had seen her brother. She told the 75 people attending the memorial her brother will always be known as “Tommy” to her family.  She said she owes him her life.  “He was my stem cell transplant match during my battle with an aggressive form of leukemia in 2001,” she said.  “For that my family and I are eternally grateful to him and it gives me strength and peace to know I will always carry a part of him with me.” 

Mark Erwin was McKenzie’s only friend.  He said he lived in an RV park and mostly kept to himself.  “We were best buddies. Tom was a loner.  He sat in one little corner by himself.  People knew to leave him alone.  If he wanted to have you over — he’d invite you,” he said.  Erwin said McKenzie would have hated all the fuss in his honour but felt it was only right to honour him.  “There’s far too many vets falling through the cracks and I don’t think it’s right and just coming here they’ve just gone over any expectations that I had.”


News / Events

RCLS NCR Meet & Greet

The Royal Canadian Logistics Service (RCLS) is hosting its annual Meet & Greet on Thursday, 24 October 2019. The aim of this event is to welcome and enhance the Esprit… Read More

AGM Virtual Canadian Forces Logistics Association National

November 1-3 2019 Canadian Forces Logistics Association National  General Meeting Canadian Forces Logistics Training Centre (CFLTC) 110 Atlantic Road, Borden, On L0M 1C0 Friday 1 November 2019 Meet and Greet… Read More

OUTCAN Opportunity

This is typically a hard tour to fill and I have no idea why!! Its like a best kept secret! The two posn were not on this year’s OutCan list,… Read More

2019 Bursary Presentation

Today at the NDHQ WOs & Sgts Mess, Ms Megan Filiatrault received the CFLA 2019 Bursary of $1,000.00   toward her first year studies in Bio-Chemistry with a view to becoming… Read More

How the Journey Started

50 Years Ago Sgt. Pepper Taught the Band to Play Remembering How the Journey Started “ The first Basic Logistics Officer Course (BLOC1) was a genuine milestone in the history… Read More