Watching the repatriation ceremony on May 6 for the six Canadians who were killed in a helicopter crash on April 29 had special meaning for an Abbotsford woman.
Seeing the tribute, Doreen Tape recalled her years in the Air Force during the Second World War.
Tape, who turns 100 on May 20, was stationed in Saskatoon – her birthplace – during the conflict.
She was born with a heart condition that kept her home, but her accounting degree gave her valuable skills to contribute to the war effort.
Over that time, she mourned many fallen comrades. The biggest bonus her service netted was meeting Thomas Tape, the man she married in 1944.
Coincidentally, she was a Thomas before her wedding. Tape’s parents, Carl (a veteran) and Violet, came from the United Kingdom in steerage after the First World War. The voyage cost the young couple their first daughter; the baby died and the mother became dangerously ill.
“My dad had it so rough,” Tape recalled.
The family settled in Saskatoon where she was born in 1920 and a brother, Raymond, in 1927. Both her husband and brother died in 2004.
Tape is a true trailblazer. She studied at university long before it was the norm for women.
She logged time in Syria in 1974 when her husband went there for three months to work. That sojourn nearly cost Tape her life.
The climate made her heart condition worse. But what she remembers the most of that time was the destruction in the beautiful country. She was there shortly after one of their many civil wars.
Tape’s husband was active in the petroleum business. He was especially good at maintaining the equipment needed for pipelines and refineries.
For three years beginning in 1978, the couple lived in Saudi Arabia. During their time in the Middle East they were also involved in turning salt water into potable water.
Then, as now, women’s rights weren’t top of mind. Tape told of only being able to drive in the compound where the pair lived. “Anywhere else was out of bounds,” she remembered.
Tape had two children, both of whom she’s outlived. She has two grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
Her nearest and dearest relative is a daughter-in-law, Joan, who lives in Birch Bay.
The present social-distancing restrictions means Tape will likely celebrate her birthday without any family.
However, Christie Collins, Tape’s care aide, is like family and will be on hand to mark the great occasion.
Tape has called Abbotsford home for 21 years and hopes to see many more here. Her curiosity and amazing memory keep her young.