David Thiessen in July 1944.

David Thiessen in July 1944.

Abbotsford veteran turns 100 on Remembrance Day

David Thiessen served in the Royal Canadian Artillery in World War II

For David Thiessen of Abbotsford and his family, Remembrance Day is of extra-special importance – and this year it is even more so.

Not only is Thiessen a Second World War veteran, having served in the Royal Canadian Artillery (RAC), but his birthday is on Nov. 11 – and this year, he turns 100.

Thiessen lives in the Tabor Home care facility in Abbotsford, and his daughter Josey McIntosh said it has only been in recent years that she has been able to gather more information about her dad’s war years.

“Dad, like his generation, rarely spoke about his war exploits,” she said.

Thiessen was born in southern Manitoba to a Mennonite farming family of 13 children. He was among the youngest children.

He and his first wife, Liddy Groening, whom he met because they lived not far from each other, married on Boxing Day in 1941, when he was 21 and she was 20.

It was just a few weeks later when Thiessen enlisted and was assigned to the RAC’s 42nd field artillery regiment (Lanark and Renfrew Scottish) in Pembroke, Ont.

RELATED: Abbotsford Remembrance Day ceremony goes virtual for 2020

This was an unusual decision for someone with his family’s background because Mennonites are conscientious objectors, but McIntosh said her dad wanted to serve his country. One of his siblings – an older brother – later joined the navy.

After basic training, his unit was shipped to England and then to Algiers, North Africa. One of the ships in the convoy was torpedoed en route, McIntosh said.

From Africa, the unit travelled to the east coast of Italy and saw action at Cassino. As the Allied forces drove the Italians back, they arrived in Rome.

McIntosh said her dad served as a Bren gun carrier driver throughout this period.

After the surrender of the Italians, Thiessen’s unit was moved to Holland, where they did not see action.

Her dad then volunteered to serve in the Pacific theatre of war between the Allies and the Empire of Japan, which covered a large portion of the Pacific Ocean, East Asia and southeast Asia.

McIntosh said her dad’s incentive in choosing this option was that he would get a 30-day pass back to Canada in the meantime. He did not tell his wife that he was en route to the Pacific, and, as it turned out, he didn’t need to – during his stay, it was announced on Aug. 14, 1945 that Japan had surrendered to the Allies, effectively ending the Second World War.

After the war, the couple settled in Kane, Manitoba – near where they had grown up –and took up grain farming and had two daughters.

They moved off the farm in 1975, and Thiessen went to night school to complete his high school education, after which he became a realtor.

Liddy died in 1977, and Thiessen married his second wife, Margaret from Kitimat, B.C., four years later.

Thiessen retired in 1987 and the couple then moved to Vernon, where they lived until moving to Abbotsford in 2006 to be closer to family.

The couple was involved in church activities and did missionary work for a few years, serving in Belize, Mexico and Swaziland, Africa.

ALSO READ: Abbotsford’s Gwen Settle recalls top-secret seaside navy job

After Marg died in 2013, Thiessen moved to Tabor Court and then to Tabor Home five years later when his health worsened, including the onset of dementia. He now uses a wheelchair to get around.

McIntosh said, over the years, her dad’s service in the war was commemorated by the family attending some Remembrance Day ceremonies. He and Marg also attended ceremonies in Italy in November 2004.

Although he didn’t reveal many of the specifics of his war years, he conveyed his sense of pride.

“I think he was always very, very glad he had done that for the whole country, for the next generations … He just felt very fortunate that he had come back,” McIntosh said.

“Because of that, I think we had it instilled in us a lot to really accept and to appreciate what (the veterans) did.”

Thiessen’s war medals – he has half a dozen – are displayed on a plaque, and this year he was among veterans who received a certificate and lapel pin to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II.

His family had hoped to have a celebration for his 100th birthday but, due to COVID-19 restrictions that limit visits to one family member once a week, only McIntosh will be able to go into Tabor Home. But she hopes that other family members will be able to visit him at his window.

“Our family is very proud of him. His life has been an example to us of duty and service,” McIntosh said.



vhopes@abbynews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Remembrance Day

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

David Thiessen with his first wife, Liddy, during the war years.

David Thiessen with his first wife, Liddy, during the war years.

Second World War veteran David Thiessen of Abbotsford celebrates his 100th birthday on Remembrance Day this year.

Second World War veteran David Thiessen of Abbotsford celebrates his 100th birthday on Remembrance Day this year.

Just Posted

St. John Brebeuf student Adam Bouwman has advanced in the RBC Training Ground search after Rowing Canada expressed interest in him. (Submitted)
Abbotsford student attracts interest from Rowing Canada

St. John Brebeuf student Adam Bouwman advances in RBC Training Ground program

Rendering of proposed homeless shelter and supportive housing facility on Rowat Avenue and Trethewey Avenue in Chilliwack. (BC Housing)
Supportive housing and shelter proposed to replace the Portal in Chilliwack

Province looking to fast-track hybrid proposal for 50 supportive homes and 40 shelter spaces

Loop Energy’s first engineer, Vance Chou (right), working with a National Research Council colleague to test one of the first fuel-cell prototypes at the Institute for Fuel Cell Innovation in 2002. (Loop Energy photos)
Loop Energy: Chilliwack fuel-cell startup hits bumps on road to success

This is part two of a 3-part series on the rise of Loop Energy, now being traded publicly on the TSX

A massive fire at the Delair Court Apartments destroyed one of the buildings on the morning of Feb. 14. (John Morrow/Abbotsford News)
Salvation Army thanks residents for ‘incredible generosity’ to victims of apartment fire

16 palettes of items donated to those who lost homes in Delair Court Apartments

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: B.C. seniors aged 90+ can start to sign up for vaccination on March 8

Long-term care residents protected by shots already given

Langley resident Carrie MacKay shared a video showing how stairs are a challenge after spending weeks in hospital battling COVID-19 (Special to Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Stairs a challenge for B.C. woman who chronicled COVID-19 battle

‘I can now walk for six (to) 10 minutes a day’

The south coast of B.C. as capture by the Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission. (European Space Agency)
VIDEO: Images of B.C.’s south coast from space released by European Space Agency

The satellite images focus on a variety of the region’s landmarks

A copy of the book “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” by Dr. Seuss, rests in a chair, Monday, March 1, 2021, in Walpole, Mass. Dr. Seuss Enterprises, the business that preserves and protects the author and illustrator’s legacy, announced on his birthday, Tuesday, March 2, 2021, that it would cease publication of several children’s titles including “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” and “If I Ran the Zoo,” because of insensitive and racist imagery. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
6 Dr. Seuss books won’t be published for racist images

Books affected include McElligot’s Pool, On Beyond Zebra!, Scrambled Eggs Super! and The Cat’s Quizzer

FILE – Oshawa Generals forward Anthony Cirelli, left, shoots and scores his team’s first goal against Kelowna Rockets goalie Jackson Whistle during second period action at the Memorial Cup final in Quebec City on Sunday, May 31, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot
B.C. government approves plan in principle to allow WHL to resume in the province

League includes Kamloops Blazers, Kelowna Rockets, Prince George Cougars, Vancouver Giants, Victoria Royals

The fundraising effort to purchase 40 hectares west of Cottonwood Lake announced its success this week. Photo: Submitted
Nelson society raises $400K to save regional park from logging project

The Nelson community group has raised $400,000 to purchase 40 hectares of forest

AstraZeneca’s vaccine ready for use at the vaccination centre in Apolda, Germany, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Michael Reichel/dpa via AP
National panel advises against using Oxford-AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine on seniors

NACI panel said vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna are preferred for seniors ‘due to suggested superior efficacy’

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A public health order has extended the types of health care professionals who can give the COVID-19 vaccine. (Photo courtesy of CHI Franciscan)
‘It’s great that midwives are included’ in rollout of B.C.’s COVID vaccine plan, says college

The order will help the province staff the mass vaccination clinics planned for April

Most Read