RCN veterans honoured for ‘inspirational’ efforts

Vice-Admiral Angus Topshee, Commander, Royal Canadian Navy; Peggy Sahlen (widow of Paris Sahlen); Captain (Navy) (Retired) William H. Wilson ; Mrs. Wilson; and Ron Hallman, President and Chief Executive Officer, Parks Canada.

Vice-Admiral Angus Topshee, Commander, Royal Canadian Navy; Peggy Sahlen (widow of Paris Sahlen); Captain (Navy) (Retired) William H. Wilson ; Mrs. Wilson; and Ron Hallman, President and Chief Executive Officer, Parks Canada.

Peter Mallett 
Staff Writer

Two navy veterans have been inducted into Parks Canada’s Hometown Heroes program.

On June 4, the Minister responsible for Parks Canada, Steven Guilbeault, paid tribute to Captain (Navy) (Retired) William H. Wilson and the late Paris K. Sahlen during a Hometown Heroes induction ceremony at The Military Museums in Calgary.

Vice-Admiral (VAdm) Angus Topshee, Commander Royal Canadian Navy, and Captain (Navy) Blair Saltel, Maritime Forces Pacific Chief of Staff, attended the ceremony. During his address, VAdm Topshee commended both men for their contributions.

“Their military service and invaluable contributions to the Royal Canadian Navy over many decades not only have brought generations of Canadians closer to their navy, but have also boosted the morale of countless sailors,” VAdm Topshee said. “Their achievements are a source of inspiration for our members, and being recognized as Hometown Heroes ensures their legacy will be known to Canadians well into the future.”

The two men were nominated to the Hometown Heroes program by members of their local communities, said a spokesperson for Parks Canada.

Hometown Heroes launched in 2015. It recognizes individuals who have demonstrated outstanding contributions to the Canadian Military with an association to places administered by Parks Canada.

Sixty-Two Years in Uniform

Wilson played a pivotal role in creating the Naval Museum of Alberta. When reached for a telephone interview at his home in High River, Alta., he said he was humbled to be honoured by Parks Canada, but more encouraged by the attention generated for the museum.

“We created the museum to educate the public about the men and women of Canada’s military and their outstanding accomplishments, so anything we can do to get people to visit this wonderful facility is wonderful to see,” he said.

The museum opened its doors in 1988 and later became part of The Military Museums of Calgary, the largest tri-service museum in Western Canada and the second largest military museum in the country. Copies of the commemorative panels honouring Wilson and Paris K. Sahlen are displayed aboard HMCS Calgary and The Military Museums.

Wilson also made exceptional contributions to preserving Canada’s naval history. He was instrumental in forging a special bond between the province of Alberta, the City of Calgary and HMCS Calgary. His dedication to educating youth about Canadian military history included years of support for the Royal Canadian Sea Cadets and the Navy League.

Captain (Navy) (Retired) William H. Wilson.

Captain (Navy) (Retired) William H. Wilson. Photo supplied

Hometown Heroes

The other Hometown Hero, Paris K. Sahlen, was inducted posthumously with his wife Peggy Sahlen present. Sahlen was born in Barons, Alta., in 1944 and passed away in Calgary in Dec. 2018 at the age of 74.

“Paris was a great man who I knew for 50 years after arriving at HMCS Tecumseh, the Naval Reserve Unit here in Calgary,” Wilson said. “His dedication to the job with the willingness to volunteer his time to anyone who needed help was beyond reproach.”

Sahlen, or ‘Smiley’ to his friends in Calgary, spent much of his life promoting and preserving Canada’s naval heritage. He served in the navy from 1962 to 1966, and later joined his naval reserve unit in Calgary as an officer with the 22 Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corps.

Sahlen was also a key figure in creating the Naval Museum of Alberta. He helped forge ties between HMCS Calgary, its namesake city and the entire Calgary naval community, from its commissioning in 1995 and onward.

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