Friday, April 11 was a momentous day for Harold Spurvey.
The day marked the Fox Harbour native’s 60th birthday as well as his retirement from a military career that spanned almost four decades.
The week leading up to his retirement was an exciting one for Spurvey.
On April 3, the Toronto Maple Leafs invited him to the Air Canada Centre (ACC) to watch the team take on the Boston Bruins. Spurvey is a longtime Leafs fan. He took his eldest son Aubrey to the game. Aubrey, who is also serving with the military, is a Bruins fan.
The father and son both wore their uniforms to the game, which saw the Leafs squeak out a win in overtime.
The victory was sweet for Spurvey, but perhaps even more memorable was the moment his team acknowledged his tremendous contribution to the Canadian Forces.
“We were treated great and when they read out my bio, the camera showed me live on the Jumbotron. I received a standing ovation and was congratulated throughout the intermission as we walked through the ACC,” Spurvey said during a telephone interview.
Spurvey grew up in a large family. He had 14 siblings, three of whom are deceased. Like most young boys from Fox Harbour, he spent his summers playing softball.
“That’s what we did when we woke up in the morning until it got dark at night.”
Spurvey’s military career started in 1973, the year after he graduated from Laval High School in Placentia. His first posting was to Gander, where he worked in an administrative role before moving on to Petawawa, Ont.
He left the military after serving for three years, but re-enrolled in 1979.
“When I got out, I thought the grass was greener on the other side and it took me three years to figure out it wasn’t.”
Spurvey transferred from the regular forces to the air reserves in 2009 to take a position at 9 Wing Gander.
His postings through the years included time served in several other Canadian provinces and in St. John’s and Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
One of the highlights of his career was his four-year posting to the Canadian Embassy in Oslo, Norway where he worked as a military representative dealing with defense departments in Norway, Denmark and Sweden.
“While we were there, they had the Winter Olympics in Lillehammer (1994). My youngest boy (Jamie) was too young to remember but my oldest boy remembers it. We went to some hockey games. It was great.”
While Aubrey followed in his father’s military footsteps, Jamie, who lives in the Trenton area, is carving a life as an up-and-coming country music singer/songwriter.
Married to the military
Spurvey’s wife Dana (nee Pike) is from St. John’s. She admits being the spouse of a military member can be stressful. It can also be very rewarding.
Like most spouses, she has often put her career on hold when her husband was transferred to another base.
It's difficult moving to a new environment and securing employment when you're not familiar with a place or know any people, she said.
As well, she said, some employers are reluctant to hire once they known you are a military spouse.
“Then, when you finally do find employment in your field, you are not there very long before it's time to move once again. It is a sacrifice we must make and (we) understand our husbands are married to the military and we come second. Today there is a whole lot more support than there was years ago. No matter where life takes us, home is what you make yourself.”
Spurvey’s wife said their sons adjusted well to military life. While leaving friends behind wasn’t easy, she said, moving was something they grew up with.
“Harold and I always say, ‘military life is an education in itself, especially for the children.’ They both still keep in contact with many friends throughout the world.”
The couple plan on continuing their retirement in Ontario, a short distance from Aubrey, his wife Sylvia and the Spurvey's only grandchild, Jaymes.
Commanding officer’s remarks
Spurvey’s commanding officer, Maj. Mike Stoddart, said the sergeant’s greatest contribution to the military was his willingness to share, with others, what he has learned through his career.
“At 8 Wing I utilize Sgt. Spurvey in a training position where I send him to any units or individuals that would like additional training understanding policies or procedures. His ability to provide assistance in a very clear and relaxed manner is always commented on when I get feedback from the units.”
Stoddart said he will miss Spurvey’s work ethic and sense of humour.
“Sgt. Spurvey has the ability to say the right thing at the right time to make people laugh and defuse most situations. Everyone here in my branch are extremely proud of Harold and are happy to see him move on to his next challenge. But, he is the type of individual that brings so much to the table. He will be missed.”
Age 60 is compulsory retirement age for military members. Staying on wasn’t an option, Spurvey said.
It’s a career that he has never regretted.
“The military is a great way of life. I’ve enjoyed it a great deal. It’s been awesome. And I would encourage anybody who wants to have a great career to give it a try.”
About Harold Spurvey
• Full name — Harold Joseph Spurvey;
• Birth date — April 11, 1954;
• Hometown — Fox Harbour, Placentia Bay;
• Resides — Frankford, Ont.;
• Occupation — resource management support clerk, 8 Wing Trenton;
• Education — completed high school at Laval in Placentia in 1972. Numerous technological and leadership training programs within the Canadian Forces;
• Notable accomplishments — Commanding Officers Commendation (on three separate occasions) for outstanding support and leadership, CF Decoration 2nd clasp, Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal.