When 12-year-old Ed Duffney quit school in 1949, he planned to make a living cutting pulpwood with a bucksaw in the woods of Newfoundland. Little did he know then that that his career would see him travelling the world, becoming a well-known historian, and receiving many accolades for his service to Canada.
After his pulpwood stint, Ed worked at an air force base, and then joined the Canadian Armed Forces in 1957. During his 35 year career with the military, he was stationed in Ontario, had two tours of duty in West Germany, and spent six months in Cyprus with a reconnaissance platoon on peacekeeping missions with NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization).
In 1972, Ed was posted back to Ontario and for the next 17 years worked at the Royal Canadian Regiment Museum at Wolseley Barracks in London developing displays, creating special effects, and entertaining the public with his guided tours – always with a liberal sprinkling of Newfoundland humour thrown in.
In 1985, Ed was awarded the Order of Military Merit by Governor General Jean Sauvé for his dedication and devotion beyond the call of duty. “Sitting at the head table at that awards ceremony rivaled the birth of my three children as one of the proudest moments of my life,” he says.
A master motivator and fundraiser, once retired, Ed turned his energy to many volunteer endeavours. With Newfoundland never far from his heart, he founded the Newfoundland Social Club and the Newfoundland Hospital Society in Ontario.
As a member of the Royal Canadian Legion Victory Branch 317, he organized many fundraising dinners, and on Tuesdays, visited every veteran he could at Parkwood Institute, always telling a few jokes to get them laughing.
In 2003, Ed chaired a project to create a portable memorial to commemorate the one hour battle of Beaumont Hamel in 1918 that saw 714 casualties from a regiment of 801 men. A colour party travelled across Newfoundland with the memorial, conducting services at schools to educate children about war.
In 2008, Ed spearheaded the campaign to have provincial, territorial and national flags flown at the entrance to the Veterans Memorial Highway in London – successfully lobbying three levels of government to make his dream a reality.
Ed was also a recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medal in 2012, which honours significant contributions and achievements by Canadians.
Ed recently moved to Parkwood Institute, and says, “It’s wonderful here. I know so many people because of the years I spent visiting.” He has designed posters to brighten up the hallways, and t-shirts that say, “I wear this t-shirt to honour all the veterans who gave us our freedom.”
Ed’s service to his country and his community has set a shining example for his grandson who recently joined the Canadian Armed Forces. A lifetime of laughter, caring, and awards are proof that what Ed missed in formal education he more than made up for with his people skills, zest for living and service to his country.