Island’s senior veteran served four years in North Atlantic convoys
by Betty Bardswich
MINDEMOYA – Members of the Manitoulin North Shore Naval Veterans Association (MNSNVA) visited Mindemoya resident Allan Tustian recently to present him with a plaque celebrating his 100th birthday and the 35th anniversary of the organization.
The MNSNVA was formed in 1984 by a group of naval veterans from WWll, including Mr. Tustian, and peacetime. The organization is a unit of the Royal Canadian Naval Association and was named Club of the Year in 2008. Mr. Tustian had fallen at home and broken his collarbone and was therefore temporarily stationed at the Mindemoya Hospital, but that wasn’t going to stop these gentlemen from honouring their comrade. The members present were President Bryan Chapelle, Vice-President-Island Roy Eaton and Secretary-Treasurer Bill Ranich.
Members of Mr. Tustian’s family were on hand for the ceremony including his wife Alma, and daughter Marilyn of Mindemoya, as well as Mark of Calgary, John of Brooklin and grandson Mason. Another daughter, Jeanne Lefebvre of Massey, and Doug of Thunder Bay and Mike of Fenelon Falls round out the immediate family.
Marilyn shared a bit of the family’s history, saying, “We get together every year for two weeks for the past 25 years. We were here for mom’s 90th birthday. There were 35 of us here this year and we celebrate at Treasure Island, where we grew up.”
Mr. Tustian is well-known for his naval service, but also for the outstanding work he has done over the years for those who have served in Canada’s navy during wartime and those who are in it today. He collaborated with author Wayne Neal on a memoir about his wartime experiences, ‘Allan Tustian and the Battle of the Atlantic,’ complete with historical photos, about his life
He started his naval career in 1941 and was honourably discharged on October 1, 1945. Mr. Tustian was originally in the army but became a member of the navy in 1942, which is where he wanted to be. Along with the training in torpedoes and gunnery that all naval personnel take, Mr. Tustian, when asked what specialty he would like to take, chose radio directional finding. He explained that this is the radar used to find ships on the surface. Later, he also took the training for the increasingly crucial sonar, necessary for finding the enemy submarines that played havoc on supply ships from Canada and the United States to Britain.
Mr. Tustian certainly saw a lot of water during his time in the navy. He served on the Arctic, Atlantic and Pacific oceans, as well as the Mediterranean Sea and his ships were Her Majesty’s Canadian Ships (HMCS) St. Francis, Timmins and Waskesiu, in order a destroyer, corvette and frigate.
He was present for the Battle of the Atlantic, which lasted almost six years. It not only included the Atlantic Ocean, but many other spots including the Arctic Ocean, the Labrador Sea and the Gulf of St. Lawrence. This action saw the death of just over 72,000 sailors and merchant seaman. Mr. Tustian was also present for D-Day, the Allied Invasion of Europe, which led to the defeat of the Germans and the end of the war. The naval veteran saw a staggering 43 convoys across the North Atlantic.
Mr. Tustian returned home to Manitoulin and settled on Treasure Island where he met his wife Alma and where his children were raised. Over the years, he worked for naval veterans and was actively involved in the construction of the Manitoulin District Cenotaph Park and the naval merchant marine monument. He was also a part of the construction of the naval monument in Memorial Park in Sudbury.
“I joined in ’93,” Mr. Ranich said of the MNSNVA. “Allan was a well-spoken gentleman with lots of wartime stories to tell us. He always had us in stitches, but he also told you of the rough times. He was also instrumental in the formation of the Manitoulin Sea Cadet Corps. He said, ‘if Sudbury can have it, why can’t we?’” And probably unknown to a lot of people, Mr. Tustian was responsible for the formation of the Island’s first all-female hockey team. And if one is wondering about the longevity of this man, perhaps it is because, as Marilyn put it, he went swimming twice a day from May 24 until September 30. He also went ice and rod fishing until he turned 97 and also golfed until three years ago.”
In June of this year, Mr. Tustian was honoured by the Sudbury Shrine Club with a message that said, “The Shrine Club is very privileged to have one of its longest-serving members, veteran Allan Tustian. Thank you Noble Allan Tustian for your service to our country.”
The MNSNVA members also gave their thanks to Allan and noted that he will be featured in next month’s report. Each month, the photo of a young person goes in and the readers have to guess who it is. They also noted that Mr. Tustian has been put in for “Member of the Year” at the National Convention, which takes place in Brantford on September 28 to 30 and Mr. Chapelle has talked with the provincial president about this.
The visit ended with Mr. Eaton saying, “It is an honour and a privilege to be here today. Thank you for your support.”
The naval veterans then went to the Grill and Chill restaurant, along with their spouses, to celebrate their anniversary and to reminisce about the remarkable Allan Tustian.
Mr. Tustian will be celebrating his 100th birthday this Sunday, September 22.
Get well soon, Allan, and Happy Birthday!