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"RAL" 2003 Obituary


RALPH 

RALPH o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-11-11 published
The crash of a Canadian hero
Lest we forget, Roy MacGREGOR traces the spectacular feats and the sad fall of a flying ace
By Roy MacGREGOR, Tuesday, November 11, 2003 - Page A1
Ottawa -- Here is as good a place as any to lay a small poppy on Remembrance Day.
It is nothing but a concrete dock ramp on the Ontario shore of the Ottawa River, not far downstream from the Parliament Buildings.
There is nothing here to say what happened that cold March day back in 1930, and on this, a fine brisk morning in November, 73 years later, there is only a lone biker, a man walking two setters along the path that twists along this quiet spot, and a small, single-engine airplane revving in the background as it prepares to take off from the little Rockcliffe airstrip.
Seventy-three years ago, another small plane took off from this airfield, turned sharply over the distant trees, flew low and full-throttle over the runway and went into a steep climb that eventually cut out the engine and sent the new Fairchild twisting toward this spot -- instantly killing Canada's most-decorated war hero.
Will BARKER, 35, of Dauphin, Manitoba
Perhaps you've heard of him. Likely not. He is, in some ways, the test case for Lest We Forget.
Lieutenant-Colonel William George BARKER won the Victoria Cross for what many believe was the greatest dogfight of the First World War.
He was alone in his Sopwith Snipe over Bois de Marmal, France, on October 27, 1918, when he was attacked, official reports say, by 60 enemy aircraft -- Mr. BARKER, who rarely talked of his war experience, always said 15 -- and he shot down three before passing out from devastating wounds to both legs and his arm, only to come to again in mid-air, turn on the fighter intending to put an end to him and bring down a fourth before he himself crash-landed in full view of astonished British troops, who were even more amazed when they got to the plane and found him still alive, if barely.
The four that one day took Mr. BARKER's list to 50 downed aircraft. He returned to Canada as Lt.-Col. William George BARKER, V.C., D.S.O. and enough other medals to lay claim to being Canada's most honoured combatant -- if he'd ever cared to do so. As British Air Chief Marshal Sir Philip JOUBERT wrote, "Of all the flyers of the two World Wars, none was greater than BARKER."
He came home and went into the aviation business with another Canadian Victoria Cross winner, Billy BISHOP. He married Mr. BISHOP's wealthy cousin, Jean SMITH, and had a miserable next dozen years. The business failed, the marriage teetered, he suffered depression and terrible pain from his injuries, and the previous non-drinker soon became a drinker.
It seemed life was taking a turn for the better in January of 1930 when Fairchild hired him to help sell planes to the Canadian government. A test pilot had been sent to show off the plane at Rockcliffe, but the veteran fighter unfortunately insisted on taking it up himself for a run.
Some say he committed suicide here; some say he was showing off for an 18-year-old daughter of another Rockcliffe pilot; his biographer believes he was just being too aggressive with a new, unknown machine and "screwed up."
They held the funeral in Toronto, with a cortege two miles long, 2,000 uniformed men, honour guards from four countries and 50,000 people lining the streets. As they carried the coffin into Mount Pleasant Cemetery, six biplanes swooped down, sprinkling rose petals over the crowd.
"His name," Sir Arthur CURRIE announced, "will live forever in the annals of the country which he served so nobly."
His name, alas, is not even on the crypt -- only " SMITH," his wife's snobbish family who never really accepted the rough-hewn outsider from Manitoba.
Somehow, he became all but forgotten. Though Mr. BISHOP called Mr. BARKER "the deadliest air fighter that ever lived," it is Mr. BISHOP who lives on in the public imagination. Often, if Mr. BARKER is mentioned at all, "Billy" BARKER, as he was known to his air colleagues, is confused with "Billy" BISHOP.
A request for a government plaque to commemorate his Manitoba birthplace was rejected the first time, but there is now some small recognition thanks in large part to the work of Inky MARK, the Member of Parliament for Dauphin-Swan Lake and the excellent military biography, BARKER VC, produced a few years back by Wayne RALPH.
Mr. RALPH, a Newfoundlander now living in White Rock, British Columbia, thinks Mr. BARKER was simply too much "the warrior" for the Canadian appetite.
"He was an international superstar," says Mr. RALPH. " BARKER had all the traits of the great Hollywood heroes. He was disobedient, gregarious, flamboyant. He was a frontier kid, a classical figure in the American style of hero. Born in a log cabin, went on to fame and fortune, and died tragically at 35.
"Now he is basically buried in anonymity. To me, it's the perfect metaphor for Canada, where we bury our past."
Today, though, even if it is only a poppy dropped at the end of a concrete boat ramp, we will remember.

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RALPH o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-12-10 published
The backroom brain of the Canadian Football League
For 37 years, he was 'Facts Fulton,' the head-office man who made things work and who wrote the complex rules that govern the Canadian Football League
By Dan RALPH, Canadian Press; Globe and Mail files Wednesday, December 10, 2003 - Page R5
For 16 years, former Canadian Football League commissioner Jake GAUDAUR never relied on a computer to draw up the league's regular-season schedule. Instead, he looked to Greg FULTON to do it in his head.
"We used to run it [the Canadian Football League schedule] in the computer for days," said Mr. GAUDAUR, who served as league commissioner from 1968 to 1983. "But in the final analysis, Greg would always have it worked out in his mind."
Mr. FULTON, who spent 54 years with the Canadian Football League as a player, statistician and historian, died in Toronto on Monday. It was his 84th birthday. The cause of death was not provided but he reportedly suffered a stroke last week that caused him to fall into a coma from which he never emerged.
"He worked behind the scenes and received so little credit," Mr. GAUDAUR said. "There was no one in Canadian history who knew as much about the league as Greg did."
Doug MITCHELL, who succeeded Mr. GAUDAUR as Canadian Football League commissioner in 1984, marvelled at Mr. FULTON's ability to draw up a Canadian Football League schedule.
"He did it on a sort of a blackboard," he recollected. "What the computer kicked out invariably never worked but Greg's schedules always did. It really was incredible."
Current Canadian Football League commissioner Tom WRIGHT said Mr. FULTON's passion and commitment were an inspiration. "While he served our league with distinction and honour, he will best be remembered for the warmth of his smile, the wit of his stories, and the depth of his recollections."
Mr. FULTON, a Winnipeg native, moved to Calgary in 1930 and began his career as a player with the Stampeders in 1939. During the Second World War, he served with the Calgary Regiment of the First Canadian Armoured Brigade and participated in the abortive Dieppe raid on August 19, 1942.
Returning home in peacetime, he attended the University of Alberta to get a bachelor of commerce degree and soon after found a job with Revenue Canada.
So, how exactly did a Calgary tax man end up as one of the Canadian Football League's most influential people? It started with a love affair for facts and figures that first led to a part-time job in Calgary as a statistician for the Stampeders. When Clark DAVEY, who was later appointed to the Senate, was appointed in 1966 as the Canadian Football League's first full-time commissioner, he lured Mr. FULTON to Toronto.
Sen. DAVEY "made some quick enemies because he was outspoken and the job wasn't really ready for him," Mr. FULTON told former Globe and Mail sportswriter Marty YORK. So 54 days after he took the job, much of which consisted of feuding with Canadian Football League officials, Sen. DAVEY resigned. Mr. FULTON was kept on under Mr. GAUDAUR, Sen. DAVEY's successor.
"Jake usually approaches me every day to ask me something," Mr. FULTON once said in an interview. "A lot of the times, I think he knows the answers to the questions he is asking, but I think he might feel better if he hears something from me. I guess you could call me his confidant, but there are times when I do mention something that he has overlooked and that often can have an effect on the league and the fans."
What was most important, wrote Marty YORK in 1981, was Mr. FULTON's status as assistant commissioner -- a title he did not hold but a role he filled seven days a week. A walking Canadian Football League encyclopedia, he was soon nicknamed Facts Fulton. He was also known as Jake GAUDAUR's memory bank.
When Mr. GAUDAUR became commissioner, he delegated a number of the commissioner's key duties to Mr. FULTON who already administered the pension funds and had the challenging task of drawing up the Canadian Football League schedule. Consequently, the nine Canadian Football League general managers became accountable to Mr. FULTON.
He was authorized to issue orders, regulations and memoranda to all club officials, including coaches and players. Also, he was responsible for roster control, player personnel, registration of all contracts, waiver procedures, negotiation lists and draft lists.
"He did the work of three people but the last thing he wanted to do was talk about it," Mr. GAUDAUR said.
At the same time, however, Mr. FULTON was a confessed nag. "I wouldn't be doing my job if I wasn't," he once said.
Managers of Canadian Football League clubs across the country sometimes came to dread the sound of the phone ringing. "He'll bug you when he calls to remind you that you didn't do such-and-such a thing," said Montreal Alouette general manager Bob GEARY in 1981. "It gets on your nerves sometimes, but I guess if he didn't do that kind of stuff, no one would, and we'd be suffering more than we do."
Mr. FULTON was also something of a Canadian Football League policeman who had to lay down league laws. At one time, Canadian Football League clubs were strictly limited about who could attend training camps. Under the terms of an agreement with the Canadian Football League Players Association, clubs were allowed to conduct pre-training-camp practices only for rookies, quarterbacks and veterans who had surgery the previous year. Veterans were allowed to work out on their own, but coaches were forbidden to order them to participate. In a case in which the Argo felt they had good reason to start camp early, Mr. FULTON had to consult his regulations.
"I told them it was fine," he decreed. "As long as the veterans were running around on their own."
Clubs that violated pre-training-camp rules by practicing with veterans faced fines, he said.
All things considered, though, it was drawing up the schedule that was Mr. FULTON's most time-consuming job. It was also the one for which he suffered the most criticism.
"I've never yet been able to satisfy everyone with the schedule," he said. "I'm convinced that that's impossible because of the uniqueness of our league. We only have nine teams, which means that one team has to sit out every week. Also, because some of our clubs play in stadiums where baseball and soccer are played, I have to work the schedule around that too."
In 1990, Mr. FULTON received the first Commissioner's Award for his contribution to football in Canada. Five years later, he was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in the builder's category. In 1995, he was named the honorary secretary-treasurer and was active in head office as a consultant and historian until his death.
Mr. FULTON, who was reappointed by the Canadian Football League to his primary role about 10 times eight times, sometimes felt guilty about his job because he puts it ahead of everything else in his life.
"I've never been able to take an extended holiday," he said in 1981. "But I wouldn't change it for anything in the world... I'm one of those rare people who actually enjoys his job."
To a sometimes troubled league, he was a godsend.
"Thank goodness we have a guy like him," Bob GEARY told Marty YORK. "I hate to think what would happen to us if he wasn't around."
Mr. FULTON leaves children Robert, Byrne and Rebecca. He was predeceased by wife Angela BOMBARDIERI in 1990. Funeral details are pending.

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