Canada’s oldest Second World War veteran laid to rest in British Columbia

Family and friends gathered in New Westminster on Tuesday to honour the life of a man believed to be Canada’s oldest Second World War veteran.

Reuben Sinclair was born on Dec. 5, 1911, in Lipton, Sask., and is being remembered as a loving husband, father and friend wh0 lived a remarkable life.

“Dad was a man of character, a man of honour, always positive, a man of great respect, a man who always showed his appreciation, someone who was always helping others, especially the less fortunate,” his daughter Karen Sinclair told a service at the Schara Tzedeck Cemetery.

“How so very, very proud he was to have served his country. Whenever I asked him, ‘What’s your best accomplishment, dad?’ I always thought maybe it would be us kids. Serving his country, that was his proudest accomplishment.”

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Sinclair was already 31 by the time he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1942.

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He served as a trainer, teaching bomber pilots to land in the dark on blacked-out runways.

“He inspired me to do the right thing even when there are clearly easier paths to take,” Sinclair’s grandson David Lipetz said.

“Many times has told the story how he walked away from his government treasury job with a lifelong pension where he would have been set up because he was compelled to join the war. He could not sit back and watch what was happening in Europe from afar.”

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In his last years, Sinclair became something of a celebrity.

Children at the Talmud Torah school in Vancouver came to view him as their symbol of Remembrance Day.

He attended services at the school, according to his family, and loved the attention — but never once considered his service as anything other than the right thing to do.

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“I didn’t have to (go to war) but I felt it was my duty,” Sinclair told Global News in a 2021 interview.

According to a profile in Jewish Independent, after the war, Sinclair started the Sinclair Bros. Garage and Auto Wrecking in Richmond with his youngest brother Joe, and ended up bringing numerous family members to B.C.

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In the 1960s he moved to Los Angeles with his wife seeking a drier climate for health reasons, but eventually moved back to British Columbia. His wife passed away of a stroke in 1996.

The couple were known for their giving natures, raising money for charities in Los Angeles and B.C.

Sinclair is survived by three children, six grandchildren, more than a dozen great-grandchildren, and now two great-great-grandchildren.

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Among his family, and a grateful nation, the memory of a life of service lives on.

“If you knew dad, you knew love. If you knew dad, you knew kindness, you knew a gentle man, you knew a generous man, you knew a compassionate man, you knew a devoted man,” his daughter Karen said.

“His core of duytism was who he was, it was his identity as he always told us.”

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