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I loved the service’: Orillia veteran honoured

Len Thorne served as an aviation technician

Orillia Today
Friday, July 23, 2021

Len Thorne smiled as two people draped a colourful quilt over his shoulders, momentarily shrouding his blazer with its neatly displayed arrangement of pins and medals.

The piece was a gift from Quilts of Valour — Canada Society, a national organization that provides comforting quilts to past and present Canadian Armed Forces members who have suffered illness or injury attributable to their military service.

The quilt was made by Julie Dubeau, a member of the organization.

“Though we may not know the depth of your sacrifice to protect and defend our freedom, we thank you,” Liz Seamans, the organization’s regional representative, told the 81-year-old during a presentation at Branch 34 of the Royal Canadian Legion in Orillia.

Thorne served in the Royal Canadian Navy as an aviation technician for 13 years, working aboard the HMCS Annapolis, Assiniboine and Iroquois,

From 1964 to 1967, he was involved in trials for the CHSS-2 Sea King helicopter, an anti-submarine warfare helicopter.

“I loved the service — the camaraderie,” said Thorne, who suffered a neck injury during his time with the Navy.

Having earned his black belt in jiu-jitsu and judo, Thorne also trained military personnel and their dependents in the Japanese martial arts.

“Any time we were in foreign ports, I was always on the shore patrol,” he said, adding his size and skills were put to use for riot control and other purposes.

Following his release from the Navy in 1973, Thorne started a masonry company and was awarded the Canadian Forces’ Decoration that same year.

A member of Orillia’s Royal Canadian Legion and Army Navy and Air Force Veterans in Canada Unit 400, Thorne visits with veterans in hospital and at long-term care homes, sitting with them, talking and doing what he can to brighten their day.

“I just get the satisfaction of knowing that I am bringing happiness to somebody,” he said. “A couple of these people we visit, if it wasn’t for us they don’t have any visitors.”

Thorne said his visits totalled “1,954 at last count.”

In 2019, he received the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers.