The Red Deer and Central Alberta community is remembering a tireless community supporter, Don Laubman, who passed away June 20th.
A celebration of life was held June 30th.
According to the Alberta Order of Excellence web site, Lt. General Donald C. Laubman was a decorated Canadian Air Force veteran and one of the most celebrated Canadian pilots of Second World War.
“He has played a leadership role in building the reputation of the Canadian military, particularly in Europe, and has also been an effective leader in the creation of community programs enjoyed by his fellow Albertans.
Laubman was born in Provost on Oct. 16th, 1921.
The eldest of seven children, Laubman enjoyed a typical childhood that included time-honoured pursuits such as building model airplanes. “It also involved a brush with legendary Alberta bush pilot, Wop May, which peaked Laubman interest in flying and led to many hours standing at the fence of the Edmonton Municipal Airport watching planes take off and land.”
After high school, he landed a job at a downtown Edmonton grocery store located across the street from the Royal Canadian Air Force recruiting office.
“Shortly after Canada entered the Second World War, Laubman visited the office. Thinking that a university education was a requirement for pilots, he offered his services as a photographer. He was surprised to find that a pilot’s wings were within his grasp and signed up on December 9, 1939.”
By 1941 he was working as an instructor as part of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, and in 1943, he was sent to the United Kingdom and assigned to 412 Squadron, 126 Wing.
Squadron Leader Laubman and his team offered distinguished service, flying key operational missions from D Day onward. On April 14th, 1945, shortly before VE Day, Laubman was forced to abandon his aircraft and spent the next three weeks as a prisoner of war, noted the web site.
Laubman was twice awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in recognition of his leadership abilities, courage and devotion to duty. His aerial combat record during the war earned him the title of Canada’s fourth ranking RCAF ace.
He arrived back in Canada in 1945. And it wasn’t long before someone very special came into his world.
“He was walking down Banff Avenue when he met a friend’s sister who introduced him to Margaret Gibson. Don and Margie were married in 1946 and began raising a family that grew to include son Robert and daughter Leslie.”
Meanwhile, his career with the Canadian Forces continued in peace time.
He re-enrolled in 1946 and continued building a respected career as a pilot, serving as a founding member and Flight Commander of the famed Blue Devils Air Defence Group Aerobatics Team then as a Squadron Leader and Wing Commander.
He was later promoted to Air Commodore at National Defence Headquarters, Brigadier General, and First Commander of Canadian Forces Europe. Don retired in 1972 as Lieutenant General and Chief of Personnel of the Canadian Forces.
“I’ve had a lot of good things happen to me in my life. I’m just happy to find a way to give back to my country,” he once observed regarding his motivation for community service. Don also played a role in the development of many Red Deer area service organizations.
He was instrumental in founding the Red Deer and Central Alberta Crime Stoppers organization. He served as chairman of the Red Deer Crime Stoppers Board of Directors and as a board member for Crime Stoppers International. He also served as president of the Red Deer Rotary Club, board member of the Red Deer Chamber of Commerce, and founding board member of both the Red Deer Community Foundation and the Red Deer Regional Hospital Foundation.
He also later served as vice chair of the inaugural board of the Lending Cupboard Society, and he was named Red Deer Citizen of the Year in 2005.
“The way I look at it is I’ve been so fortunate,” he once told the Express in an interview.
“So many good things have happened to me, that I have felt I should try and do some good for other people.”
-With files from the Alberta Order of Excellence