In June 1979 actor Robert Clothier, who played the part of the log-stealing scoundrel, ‘Relic’ on the CBC TV series Beachcombers, answered the call to accept an invitation to fly in for a parasail demonstration at the Oak Bay Tea Party on Willows Beach.
While his nervous daughter Jessica looked on we carefully buckled Mr. Clothier into the parachute harness and hooked him to a 300-foot tow line attached to a fast boat. After a successful liftoff we circled the bay several times with Clothier waving happily to thousands of cheering fans. His flight ended a bit oddly after the towboat stopped. The parasail stayed in the air with a sea breeze causing him to go up and down. A police officer in a rubber boat and I grabbed at his legs to get him safely down. He was not bothered at all and loved the ride. Sadly, 20 years later Robert Clothier died of stroke complications at his home in North Vancouver.
It was following his loss that I learned a bit more about this talented character actor and accomplished artist. Who would have guessed that ‘Relic’ was a well-respected bomber pilot during the Second World War. The young Canadian pilot officer logged well over 1,000 hours. While stationed in England, Clothier was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in his position as pilot for pressing home enemy attacks with great determination and courage, setting an example for those with whom he had flown.
On Dec. 23, 1944, while serving as a flying instructor with No. 5 operational training unit in Boundary Bay, Clothier was flying a Mitchel B-25 twin-engine bomber which suffered port engine failure on take-off and crashed with three crew fatalities. Clothier miraculously survived the incident but was severely injured and paralyzed from the waist down for two years. I wish I had known about Relic’s wartime contribution when I spent time with him in 1979 and to personally thank him for his service. It was indeed an honour to take this wonderful man on a 20-minute flight in Oak Bay.