THE CITY’S oldest veteran passed away suddenly last week.
Otto Lindstrom, 96, died in Mills Memorial Hospital Nov. 23.
Longtime friend and legion member Charlie Meek said Lindstrom was in hospital for a few days as he wasn’t feeling well and Meek would visit him two or three times a day.
“It was quite a shock,” said Meek about Lindstrom’s death.
“He was a real darling I can assure you. I’m just heartbroken, I really am.”
Lindstrom was well-known and well-respected at Branch 13 of the Royal Canadian Legion here, said Meek.
He said Lindstrom would phone him up and they’d go for coffee.
Lindstrom was born in Prince Rupert and grew up on the family’s homestead at Remo.
He walked to school, which was Kalum School.
His first job came at 10-years-old: going out with his father to work in the bush skidding cedar poles.
In 1938, during the late, lean years of the Depression, Lindstrom jumped a boxcar bound for a construction job in Prince Rupert building Fort Barrett.
There was a catch; you had to join the army. He was 22.
When war was declared the following year, he stayed in the army. Nobody knew the war would take so long.
“We were going to go over and blow the Germans away in 24 hours and pack it up and go home,” Lindstrom said in an interview in 2004. “Five years, six years later, we finally did the job.”
Lindstrom was initially stationed at Manitoba’s Camp Shiloh as an artillery instructor.
In early 1942, he was drafted to an artillery training centre in Aldershot, England.
He was 25 or so – practically an old man compared to the teenaged recruits he taught.
He exchanged the relative calm of England for the sun and dust, rain and mud of Italy.
Italy is called The Forgotten Campaign because it’s overshadowed by Normandy, even though it held 20 German divisions at bay as the Allies stormed the beaches in France.
“We are classed as a forgotten army – period,” Lindstrom said without self-pity in 2004. “Our attitude as far as accomplishment is concerned, if it hadn’t been for the army in Italy, D-Day would have failed.”
In Italy, Lindstrom was a mechanic and driver, doing forward observation with his commanding officer.
In 1945, the Canadians in Italy joined the Allied forces in northwest Europe.
Lindstrom’s regiment ended up in Belgium for a rest and new equipment. Then they took part in the liberation of Holland, where Canadian troops were to open up a supply route.
Lindstrom finally returned home in 1946.
His occupations included everything from lighthouse keeping to working at the airport.
He maintained his trapline for more than 75 years.
He met his wife, Fran, at Ma Lambly’s Cafe in 1948 when Fran came to town to work at the old Red Cross Hospital.
They were married in 1949.
Even though Lindstrom travelled the world, he said he never found any place better than Terrace.