Harold Kearl is a remarkable storyteller, but as incredible as his stories are his ability to recall details from 100 years of experience – as if they happened yesterday.
On Saturday, friends and family gathered at a northwest Calgary church to celebrate Kearl’s 100th birthday.
He was born in Cardston, Alta. and served as a pilot during World War II.
His older brother, Eldon Kearl, was killed in 1944 when his Lancaster was shot down. Two weeks later, Harold completed his training as a pilot
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“At the time, my parents came to my graduation as a pilot with heavy hearts to see their second son go overseas,” Kearl recalled.
He recalls a brush with death when he flew over the North Sea in the dark and his flight instrument failed.
“We get a night cloud and it’s dark and this artificial horizon that tells you if your wings are level or haven’t stopped working. So what do I do? I went back to my training that I took in High River. I talked to myself and said, ‘Harold, you know how to do it, you were taught it. Do it.’ Your crew can’t hear you, so you talk to yourself and you convince yourself,” he said
Kearl went on to fly many missions. He also found his brother’s grave after the war ended. Their story is on display at The Military Museums in Calgary.
Live long and survive a war, Kear. says he learned about the value of teamwork in any environment.
“I think you have to work together as a crew and understand each other. When you work as a crew, you trust each other that things will work out right. If you run into problems, the end depends a lot on your captain’s decision about what he does.”
Kearl was married to his wife, Marilyn, for 72 years and the couple had five children. Marilyn died in 2020 at the age of 95.
After the war, Kearl did missionary work in the Philippines and was a bishop with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
During that time he performed many wedding ceremonies, including Lorne Fleming’s.
Fleming was one of the many guests at the birthday party on Saturday. He has known Harold for 61 years.
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“He is very, very, honest and the dearest friend I have ever had. He earned every one of those years. He is a bit of a war hero from some of the stories he told me. It’s an honor to be in his presence at any time,” Fleming said.
Friends at the party said Kearl’s interest in current events, ease with people and his quick smile made him a joy to talk to. He humbly gives his opinion on the key to longevity, but believes that proper training goes a long way in reaching the century mark.
“Young people use the term happiness, but it doesn’t apply very much. It’s a matter of training and trusting yourself and your crew. I think it is partly the discipline you learn in the services, because today the youth are not necessarily disciplined that way.”
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