Harper John Pettypiece

My grandfather

A Full Life

My grandfather, Harper Pettypiece, was a Navy yeoman, a newspaper publisher, a musician, a world traveler, an amateur historian, and a community organizer. From a small town in Canada, he joined the Navy in 1939 and served as a signalman on naval corvettes and frigates in the Pacific and the North Atlantic throughout World War II. He was part of the defense of Hong Kong and he was at Pearl Harbor the day before the Japanese attack. During a patrol mission in the North Atlantic in 1945, his ship rammed and sank a friendly vessel. While his captain was put on trial, he took shore-leave in Liverpool, England, where he met my grandmother, Joan Taylor, at a roller-skate rink on Valentine's Day. They were married that summer.

Later life

Harper and Joan had seven children (my father, Carl, was their last). Much of their middle years were spent in southwestern Ontario. He was diagnosed with emphysema which is a kind of lung disease. It was most likely caused by breathing in harmful chemicals as a newspaper printer as well as by smoking cigarettes. The doctors told him he had a month to live--he quit smoking and lived another 25 years! During that time he and his family moved to and lived in Iceland for several years, then England for several more, and finally he and Joan returned to Canada where they retired. During that time he earned a Bachelors degree from the University of Western Ontario in Music, graduating at the age of 75! Harper passed away in his home the morning of 14 December 2002. His wife Joan passed away only five months after, and both are buried side-by-side in London, Ontario.