|Date of Birth||January 15, 1899|
|Place of Birth||Neepawa, Manitoba|
|Next of Kin||Mrs Agnes Paterson, mother, Eden, Manitoba|
|Trade / Calling||Student|
|Religion||Church of England|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Address at Enlistment||Eden, Manitoba|
|Date of Enlistment||January 4, 1916|
|Age at Enlistment||17|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||November 8, 1975|
|Age at Death||77|
John (Jack) Paterson was born on 15 January 1899 in Neepawa, Manitoba. His parents Robert Paterson and Agnes Helen Scott were both from southern Ontario, Robert from the Woodstock area and Agnes from King County. Shortly after Agnes graduated from the Toronto General Hospital the couple married in May of 1894. After the marriage Agnes joined Robert in Neepawa where he was the Reverend of the Knox Presbyterian Church. Children born to the couple in Neepawa were Jean Ferguson (1896), Helen Fleming (1897), Jack, and Catherine Scott (Kate) (1900). At the time of the 1901 census the family was listed as living in the district of MacDonald, subdistrict South Cypress. The 1906 census placed them in Winnipeg where they were living with Robert’s parents and family, and by the 1911 census they were in the district of Portage la Prairie where Robert Sr was listed as farmer. In 1907, in Russell, Manitoba, they had given birth to daughter Janet Margaret. Jack’s mother’s later obituary also had the family living in Glenboro, Binscarth, Brandon, and Elphinstone, all in Manitoba.
At age 17, Jack signed his attestation papers on 4 January 1916 in Neepawa. At the time he was a student, his family living in Eden just north of Neepawa. With his father’s retirement, during the war they moved to Glenboro. With the rank of Private, Jack arrived in England aboard the Olympic on 26 December 1916 with the 226th Battalion.
In mid January of 1917 Jack was admitted to the Military Isolation Hospital in Aldershot with diphtheria and the mumps. Discharged from the hospital on 7 February, in April he was taken on strength with the 14th Reserve Battalion. On 22 June he was admitted to the Moore Barracks Canadian Hospital at Shorncliffe with boils/interconnective tissue issues on his face. Discharged from the hospital on 5 July, Jack was transferred to the 11th Reserve Battalion that October. On 4 January 1918 he was awarded a Good Conduct Badge. Later that month Jack proceeded overseas to France, joining the 43rd Battalion in the field on 4 February.
The 43rd Battalion was authorized on 7 November 1914 and embarked for Britain on 1 June 1915. It disembarked in France on 22 February 1916, where it fought as part of the 9th Infantry Brigade, 3rd Canadian Division in France and Flanders until the end of the war.
In late June of 1918 Jack was admitted to the No 3 General Hospital in Calais with pleurisy. A serious condition sometimes caused by tuberculosis, three pints of fluids were removed from his lungs. Invalided to England, Jack was admitted to the Graylingwell Military Hospital in Chichester on 11 July, transferring to the Military Convalescent Hospital Woodcote Park in Epsom on the 20th. Although not included in his service record, later accounts suggested that he had also been gassed while in France/Belgium. Discharged from the hospital on 18 September, Jack went through a series of transfers in England before embarking for Canada aboard the Baltic in late January of 1919. Arriving in Halifax on 6 February, Jack was discharged from service on demobilization on 11 March in Winnipeg. At the time of his discharge his intended residence was given as Glenboro.
By the 1921 census Jack was living in Brandon, Manitoba with his parents and younger sisters. At the time of the census he was working as a retail salesman. According to his later writings, with the weakened condition of his lungs work requiring physical effort was not possible. While working as a shoe salesman, he met his wife to be, Ruth Laidlaw Marshall as she shopped for a new pair of shoes. Born on 7 July 1903 in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, Ruth was the daughter of James Marshall and Sarah Laidlaw. Jack and Ruth married on 16 January 1924 in Brandon, giving birth to daughter Helen Ruth later that year.
The young family moved to Vancouver Island where Jack ran his own shoe store. However, diagnosed with tuberculosis around 1926, they returned to Manitoba where Jack was to spend at least two years at the Ninette Sanatorium recuperating. While there he wrote his first story, that of the life of one of his fellow patients that he had served with during the war.
After discharge from the sanatorium, Jack, Ruth, and little Helen moved to Cranberry Portage in northern Manitoba. A bustling village, Jack hoped to write stories about the people that passed through the area as a railroad was being built along with mining and lumbering activities in the district. Conditions for the family were primitive, living in tents with no running water although a lake was nearby. Jack, with Ruth as his collaborator, sold some of his articles, providing enough income for the family. A 1935 Voters list indicated they relocated to Comox on Vancouver Island where Jack continued to write. In the earlier 1940’s they spent at least a year in Manhattan, New York before moving to Kenora in northwestern Ontario by the mid 1940’s. Although Jack and Ruth continued as free lance writers, Jack worked for fourteen years for Investor’s Syndicate of Canada, ten of them in Kenora. While in Kenora he joined the local branch of the Canadian Legion. By the mid 1950’s they returned to Comox where they later wrote a book about their days in Cranberry Portage that was published in 1970. A sequel to the book was planned outlining their writing careers from those early days but it appears that it was not completed. Over the years Jack had work published in Star Weekly, Macleans, Chatelaine, New York Herald Tribune Magazine, This Week, Magazine Digest, Argosy, True, Saturday Evening Post, Liberty, Outdoor Life, Holland’s, The Furrow, Teen Magazine, Weekend, among others.
Jack died on 8 November 1975 in St Joseph’s Hospital in Comox. At the time of his death he was survived by his wife Ruth, daughter Helen in Langley, BC, siblings Jean (Percy) Young, Helen (Francis) Ferg, both in Flin Flon, Manitoba, Kate (Paul) Pelechaty in Boissevain, Manitoba, and Margaret (James) Barkley in Delta, BC. He was predeceased by his father Robert (1941) and mother Agnes (1944), both interred in Glenboro. Jack’s daughter Helen died in 1976 in Murrayville, BC, followed by his wife Ruth in 1984 in Comox. His sisters Jean died in 1985 in Flin Flon, Helen in 1987 in Winnipeg, Kate around 1986, and Margaret in 1992 in Kelowna, British Columbia. Disposition for both Jack and Ruth was by cremation, Island Crematorium in Cedars, BC, with Piercy’s Funeral Home in Courtney in charge of the arrangements.
By Judy Stockham
Photograph of Jack, Ruth, and Helen from the jacket of the book
Obituaries provided by Courtenay Museum