A special ceremony took place at 22 Wing/Canadian Forces Base North Bay on Friday to honour a fallen comrade.
The military base renamed its fitness and wellness centre after Master Corp. Jean-Pierre Legault, who died in a plane crash in Alaska in the 1990s.
It was a sombre day for the Legault family. They remember their brother and husband as an easygoing man who loved to laugh.
“People still think about him and still remember him,” said his widow Marlaine Pouliot Legault.
“He was a happy person. He would turn everything into fun. He loved to help and anything he could do for us, he was there.”
Legault joined the Canadian Armed Forces in March 1982. As a youth, he was an air cadet.
In 1991, his career took him to the Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage, Alaska, where he was a communications technician with the 962nd Airborne Air Control Squadron of the United States Air Force on an airborne warning and control aircraft.
He was always a nervous flier.
“He told me ‘You know it’s the not same’ (as commercial flying). So he said ‘Let’s go’ and we went to Alaska,” said Pouliot Legault.
A special ceremony took place at 22 Wing/Canadian Forces Base North Bay on Friday to honour a fallen comrade. The military base renamed its fitness and wellness centre after Master Corp. Jean-Pierre Legault, who died in a plane crash in Alaska in the 1990s. (Eric Taschner/CTV News)
Tragedy struck on Sept. 22, 1995, when the aircraft he was in crashed during takeoff after it collided with a flock of birds. All 24 crewmen on board, including Legault, were killed. He was only 35.
The crash sent shockwaves throughout the Canadian and U.S. military. Legault is buried at the Saint Enfant Jesus Cemetery in Pointe-aux-Trembles, Que.
“Military people, just do their job getting up in the morning and going to work,” said Legault’s older brother Michel Legault.
“Some days are not as good as others and one day he didn’t come back home unfortunately.”
In a ceremony Thursday morning, the military base renamed its fitness and wellness the ‘Master Corporal J.J.P. Legault Fitness and Wellness Centre.’
“The fact this this base decided to honour him is a huge thing for us,” said Michel Legault.
The fitness centre renaming is a fitting way to remember Legault. He loved sports and recreation and was an avid hockey player from his teenage years throughout his adult life. He was also a member of many military sports teams, including the Alaskan NORAD region’s hockey team.
The process of renaming the fitness centre, which began in 2019, doesn’t happen very often.
“The process goes all the way to the commander of the air force because for us, we’re obviously the air force,” said 22 Wing Commander Col. Richard Jolette.
“Then there’s the certain approval process with the director of history and heritage.”
While he never served on base in North Bay, he did study and complete courses there. Also, the main base operation is already named after Sgt. David L. Pitcher, who was the only other Canadian who perished in the same plane crash.
Through the renaming, the family hopes visitors will remember Legault, both his sacrifice and service to the country.