Before John turned into the responsible and dependable man that he became, he was an active and thrill-seeking young boy. Born in Halifax and raised in Mount Uniacke, John was constantly on the move. Always active, he loved to play outside with his friends: riding bikes, playing ball hockey and golf. He played hockey from Pee Wee to Midget, and he had such an inclination to fight that he gained the nickname “Scrapper.”

At the age of seven, John received a Honda 50s motorbike, which he drove all over the yard and driveway. After convincing his mother to hop on the back, he ran into a tree, which concluded her desire to ever be his passenger again. John was so enamoured with the Honda 50s that he would stand on his bed at night, when he should have been sleeping, and stare longingly at it through the window.

John was popular because he was fun-loving; however, he was also well-liked for his big heart. Kind and caring, he consistently befriended those who needed it, and always stuck up for the underdog. His friends called him “John Boy,” an abbreviation of his grandpa’s affectionate nickname for him: “John Boy Walton.” He loved to wear jewelry, especially gold, despite the teasing he received from other kids.

Although John was a bit wild, when he met his high school sweetheart at the age of 15, he quickly fell in love and settled down. Their first daughter was born when he was 16, and they were married at age 20. In the meantime, John graduated from Windsor Royal High School then worked at a gas station. John and his wife had two more children, a boy and another girl.

Joining the military seemed like a perfect fit. John wanted to help people, and he wanted a stable job and lifestyle to support his family. The final inspiration came when the World Trade Center in New York City was attacked on 9-11. John’s daughter questioned how they could help, and this was the prompt that John needed to enlist.

Quiet and sensible, John was a steady husband and father, never prone to ups and downs. He was protective, especially of his family, to whom he was very close. Well-respected by everyone, friends often sought his wise and realistic advice. In fact, he was so level-headed that he planned his funeral with his wife the night before he was deployed to Afghanistan.

Despite his serious nature, John had a sentimental side, too. He enjoyed writing poetry, especially about his beloved family members. One of the poems was about his baby daughter’s sandals, and it still hangs in a shadowbox in her room. John’s wife, children, parents and brother treasure the letters that he thoughtfully wrote for each of them in case he did not return, expressing his love and gratitude. Not always serious, though, John also had a dry and sarcastic sense of humour, accompanied by a crooked grin. He enjoyed teasing people, and he would playfully joke around, keeping them on their toes.

On special occasions, John’s family writes letters to him, puts them in balloons, and releases them into the sky, honouring his constant love for his family.

By Sarah J. Den Boer

Portrait by Shairl Honey