Peter Works as the Ground Crew as His Friend Takes Flight

This is a tough column to write, because I am saying goodbye to a very good friend.

Peter Mossman, a very talented visual artist, passed away last Saturday. Although my drawing skills are limited, I will try to use words to paint a picture of my friend, whom I first met in 1973 at a meeting of the Canadian Aviation Historical Society. I remember that he didn’t say a lot, but when he did speak, people tended to listen.

Life has a way of intervening in our plans, as John Lennon famously “said” a). Time raced by, so let us fast forward to 2013, when I joined Facebook ™. What a great way to connect with (and re connect with!) people. Hence was I able to re establish contact with Peter Mossman. I was pleased that he remembered me, as this 19 year old kid hadn’t been part of the “inner circle” at CAHS. After some messaging about meeting up, a cunning plan was evolved. Due to mobility issues, Peter couldn’t get out, so the mountain would come to Mohammed.

Thus it transpired that every second Wednesday, I’d hop on a Victoria Park 24 bus (“but not an Express, Peter”.b) ) I would bring some beer and we would do our very best to convert the beer cans into empties while discussing aviation.

Lancaster pilot John Coleman chats with renowned aviation artist Pete Mossman at The Brogue. Pete’s artwork helped CANAV’s early books gain fame — our CF-100, North Star, DHC and Austin Airways titles. In recent times Pete painted dozens of magnificent aircraft profiles for Dan Dempsey’s incomparable book A Tradition of Excellence.

Visit CANAVs website HERE

As our friendship blossomed however, the scope of our conversation expanded, and there were so many wonderful moments, so much to tell, that it is literally like trying to pour a quart into a pint pot in the space allotted to my column, so let me pick out some highlights to try to summarize my friend as I saw him and will remember him.

He was extremely proud of the achievements of his family, and he spoke of them constantly, not only regarding their current and future activities, but also fondly reminiscing about the past. (I got the distinct feeling that they were a force to be reckoned with at an airshow.) Peter was also delighted that his love of aviation had not “skipped a generation”.

There was no doubt at all that his dear Ruth was the “love of his life”, as could be told by the way he spoke of her. Peter felt her loss very deeply, and kept her dear in his heart for the rest of his life. He grieved, but he also knew that he had to move on, because Life is demanding and harsh. As one of his family members posted, they are reunited.

“JANES, Ruth Elizabeth – September 2, 1945 – October 21, 2009 Passed away at the North York General Hospital in Toronto on Wednesday, October 21, 2009. Beloved wife of Peter Mossman (32 years). Mother of the late T. Paul. Loved sister of Dorothy Hudson (John). Predeceased by her brothers Howard and Ralph Janes. Ruth will be fondly remembered by her many nieces and nephews across Canada and in the U.S.A. Ruth will also be sadly missed by each of Peter’s children. Cremation. A Memorial Service will be held at a later date.” – The Toronto Star Legacy

I remember him telling me about meeting Jan Zurakowski for the first time. Peter was walking on the assembly line at Avro Aircraft when he ran into “Zura”. Peter’s first sight of this immensely talented pilot, first person to fly the fabled Avro Arrow, one of the finest test pilots in human history….was watching him sweep the floor with a broom, because Zurakowski didn’t want to sit idly while there were things that he could do. (As I always say, anybody can teach you a lesson if you look hard enough.)

Jan Zurakowski Avro Arrow Test Fight Success

We spoke of other artists and he was very supportive of them. Of course, he was in contact with a number via Facebook, and he would enjoy showing me samples of their work, while complimenting their techniques and composition.

I never heard him say a malicious thing about anybody. Once, while talking about some aviation artifacts which he had loaned to someone without ever having them returned, he did look to the side and shake his head sadly, but that was the only time I ever saw him express any kind of negative emotion about anyone. That spoke volumes to me.

Likewise, he never complained about his lot in life or his health, he was happy to be able to live a fairly independent life style, while acknowledging that it was only possible because of some support from the community. He was grateful for the community care workers who came in and the support of his family, including his son who lives in the GTA and did his shopping for him.

He was a sought after artist, whose work graced everything from magazine covers to canvases to detergent boxes.

A Few of Peter Mossman’s Aviation Paintings

He had a large number of friends in Canadian aviation circles, and it’s my personal belief that having Peter Mossman as a friend gave me some “street cred” on Facebook. I know that his family appreciated my contact with him, and that he looked forward to my visits, but I can assure you that I looked forward to them as well, he was a wonderful guy. c)

I had had to postpone one visit by a day as Lois, who is having some health issues of her own, needed a medical test done. I arrived at Peter’s apartment, did my “post shutdown checks” d) and returned to the front room. Sadly, I gazed at the floor. Peter rolled over in his wheelchair, handed me a shot of rye whisky and simply said “I think you need this more than I do right now!”

When I turned 64, he drew a birthday card for me. It showed me, with my omnipresent baseball cap, in the front seat of an F-4E with a cat sitting in the back seat and rather dubiously looking towards the viewer. I asked “Is Reg e) enjoying the flight, or is he preparing to eject?” Peter replied that he was my cat, so I said “Right! He’s preparing to eject!” We both laughed.

There’s so much more that I could say about this fine man, one of my best friends. I will cherish memories of our conversations, while regretting that we never buzzed a beer garden at an airshow. I think that would have been fun.

At Marc-André’s book launch under the Arrow replica at the Canadian Air and Space Museum in Toronto, February 20, 2010: aviation photographer Richard Girouard (Chicoutimi), renowned Canadian aviation artist Peter Mossman (Toronto), CANAV Books publisher Larry Milberry (Toronto), full-out “aviation everything” aficionado Robert St-Pierre (Montreal) and Marc-Andre (Montreal). (photo by Terry Mossman)

So thank you, Peter, you were one of the nicest people I have ever met and it was a privilege to call you my friend. “Low and slow”, as you used to say.

No “indie music” this week, but I am sure that my great editor could stick in a song by Cleo Laine at this juncture.

If you want to remember Peter Mossman, one way to do so is by encouraging creative people of all ages to keep doing just that!

See you soon

  1. a) “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans.” Certainly attributed to him, if not actually said by him.
  2. b) The Express wouldn’t stop at Peter’s street, Cassandra Boulevard. In one of Life’s eerie coincidences, I have a niece named Cassandra.
  3. c) He was directly responsible for one of my few post pubescent blushes when he first complimented me on my knowledge of military aviation.
  4. d) We used some military slang when talking to each other. On the day in question, I was 63 years old and had ridden transit for an hour and forty minutes with no access to a washroom. The reader can draw their own conclusions.
  5. e) His Majestic Indifference Reginald the Aloof, Official Cat of Chez Montreuil and hero of several previous columns.


6 Responses to “Peter Works as the Ground Crew as His Friend Takes Flight”

  1. sincere condolences on your loss, Peter.

  2. Beautiful tribute…..lovingly written.

  3. Winnie Czulinski Says:

    Hi Peter,

    A beautiful down-to-earth airborne tribute! I was a great friend of Peter M’s and also visited him – conversation and our time together was always rich and delightful. May he rest in peace and fly high.

    Peter often spoke about you and I felt as if I knew you. Now I do!

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