Marie Calder’s quest to find family members from all 21 people who died in a plane crash south of Estevan nearly 75 years ago is complete.
Calder and a committee has been working to track down the families of the 20 pilots and one crew member who died in the tragedy at the former Estevan Airport site south of the city on Sept. 15, 1946.
The final three members were tracked down on the same weekend a few weeks ago.
“For the longest time, we only had seven,” she said.
It was the creation of the committee that accelerated the process of finding many of the families of the victims.
The final families they tracked down were Henry (Harry) Hugh Cowan, Robert (Bob) Cowan McRoberts and Raymond Avard Brandser, who was from the tiny south central Saskatchewan community of Glen Bain. Calder thought she was never going to track down Brandser’s family.
“It was the most amazing weekend, because it was the same person that found all three of them. They gave me the contacts for two of them on Saturday and the third one on Sunday.”
One of the people on the team is from Alberta Calder has never met. There are two local people and a woman from Regina.
Calder has being working on a book named Together Forever in the Clouds, and it shares the story of the 21 men who died in the plane crash. She started working on it after the completion of the Forever in the Clouds monument, on display at the current Estevan Regional Airport north of the city.
“I had been able to acquire military records, that sort of data and factual information, but what I really hope this book will turn out to be is more a story of their lives, and therefore the families’ input is imperative,” she said.
A draft of the book is already prepared, but she is looking for more of the human side of the victims.
“Each of these drafts goes off to the family member I’m most in touch with. In some cases, I’m in touch with a number of people for any one family,” Calder said.
She wants the family members to find errors and omissions, but she also wants them to add thoughts, memories and stories.
“In some cases, I don’t get much of that, but in many cases I do,” said Calder.
There will also be a chapter on Darren Jones, the Alberta chainsaw sculptor who carved Forever in the Clouds and the Estevan Soldier’s Tree monument.
Two separate families sent all of their photos in the mail, because they didn’t have the ability to scan the pictures.
A private Facebook page has been created for the families to interact.
“We’re trying to encourage them to interact on Facebook, and then eventually they will meet in person, and they will get to know each other.”
She expects the book will be out next spring. It’s been a fascinating process that has seen her bounce from one story to the next and back to the original person, but she has been working on material as she has received it.
“I have it put together very loosely, and I really do feel now that I know where I’m going with it.”