Richard Draffin, a former soldier turned calligrapher, has a ritual he follows every time he completes an entry in one of Canada’s Remembrance Books.
When the ink dries, he wipes the name of the deceased soldier, sailor or crew member with his fingertips – a sweet, personal tribute to a life cut short.
Last winter, Draffin added the names of the six crews and sailors killed a year ago today in the tragic crash of a CH-148 Cyclone helicopter in the Ionian Sea off Greece.
He also recorded the name of the military public affairs officer killed last spring in the crash of a CT-114 Tutor Snowbird demonstration aircraft.
“If you run your fingers gently over it, you can smell the ink,” said Draffin, who served for 28 years in the military. After his retirement, he began a new career as a contract calligrapher, keeping the books that record the names of those who died in the service of Canada.
For Draffin, the work is personal. His grandfather’s name is written in the World War I Remembrance Book; he knows the kind of closure that comes with seeing a loved one’s name given to the story.
“It’s letting that … name live,” he said. “It’s part of history. It’s part of us.”
Draffin said he tries to learn a bit more about each individual whose name he adds to the books of remembrance.
“There is a family behind each of them,” he said. “It just gives me a personal connection to it.”
So it was with the crew of the Cyclone that crashed off the Greek coast: Captain Brenden Ian MacDonald, Captain Kevin Hagen, Captain Maxime Miron-Morin, second lieutenant. Matthew Pyke, Captain-Corporal. Matthew Cousins and the Second Lieutenant. Abbigail Cowbrough.
An investigation into the fatal crash is still ongoing, but a preliminary flight safety investigation, released weeks after the crash, found the plane had not responded as the crew did. ‘had predicted during a high-speed flyby of his home ship, HMCS. Fredericton.
As he added the Cyclone crew to the list, Draffin also added the name of Captain Jenn Casey, of 431 Air Demonstration Squadron, to the book reserved for those who died in the service of Canada.
There are eight books of remembrance in total, encompassing Canada’s great wars – including the War of 1812 – as well as its peacekeeping and Cold War casualties.
Normally, they would be on display in the Peace Tower Hall of Remembrance on Parliament Hill. With Center Block closed for renovations and the pandemic preventing visitors from making it to their new temporary home in the West Block of Parliament, books – like so many things these days – are only accessible. online.
Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay said last year’s tragedy and the loss of life among so many young servicemen touched him deeply.
He said he looked forward to seeing the books return to public display.
“When you walk into this room and look at these books, it’s so humbling to see the names,” MacAulay said. “It is absolutely essential that these names remain exposed so that their memory is never lost.”