Retired RCAF pilot and cancer survivor devotes time to helping others

Brigadier-General (Ret’d) Jeffrey Brace

Brigadier-General (Ret’d) Jeffrey Brace was pilot to the Royal Family during his career.

He’s flown the Royal Family, a pope and the late Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, but for Brigadier-General (Ret’d) Jeffrey Brace, his time spent with people facing cancer is one of the most rewarding experiences of his life.

A distinguished member of Canada’s Air Force, Brace had a long and exciting career before being diagnosed with prostate cancer 10 years ago.

“Bitten by the flying bug” as a young air cadet in Montreal, Brace rose through the ranks quickly. He served as a crew member on the 1973 Trudeau mission to China, commanded 437 Transport Squadron where he flew members of the Royal Family and Pope John Paul II, and served not only as base commander at Canadian Forces Base Trenton, but also as commander of Canada’s military air transport and search and rescue forces.

He took early retirement from the Canadian Forces in 1996 to become executive director of the National Air Force Museum of Canada in Trenton, a position he held until 2002. That year, he opted to take part in a clinical trial for the early detection of prostate cancer. The doctors found something. Brace admits it was “jaw-dropping” to discover he had cancer, but he quickly realized he needed a plan.

“When you face something like this you don’t run around in circles, you sit down and you lay out a plan and you follow it,” Brace says. “I know the military and its regimented ways gave me the planning skills I needed to deal with something that, at the time, was a crisis in our family’s lives.”

After assessing the risks with the help of his wife June, and on the advice of his doctors, Brace underwent surgery.

Ten years later he is cancer free.

“Cancer still scares me to death,” he says. “One of the things that really helps is working with people who have been diagnosed with cancer – that changes you.”

For nine years, Brace has been actively involved with the Canadian Cancer Society. He has served as president of his local unit in Belleville, been a peer support person helping other Canadians diagnosed with prostate cancer, and spoken for the cause to service clubs, government employees and even Queen’s Park.

“Jeff’s contribution to the cancer cause is significant and comprised of more than considerable time – Jeff has his heart in his volunteer work,” says Heather Gray, Manager of the Hastings-Prince Edward County & Brighton unit of the Canadian Cancer Society. “He has provided great guidance to those around him. We are very lucky to have him.”

The Canadian Cancer Society is just one of the 16 Canadian health charities supported by payroll donations to Healthpartners in the fall Government of Canada Workplace Charitable Campaign, (GCWCC) launched on Sept 6.

“Thousands of Canadians like Jeff, have been helped thanks to payroll donations to Healthpartners by Government of Canada employees,” said Eileen Dooley, National Executive Director, Healthpartners. “Together we have raised $80 million to find cures, build awareness and run local support programs for people facing critical illnesses and their families.”

Brace’s latest and most rewarding role has been facilitating a self-management course for post-treatment cancer patients and their caregivers called Living Well Beyond Cancer. Developed by Stanford University and licenced to the Canadian Cancer Society, the six-week course aims to help people manage their symptoms and live a healthy life with a long-term condition.

After his first course wrapped in June, Brace recalls seeing dramatic changes amongst the participants.

“People who had been crying and reluctant to participate six weeks earlier were talking up a storm — their whole demeanor had changed, they were interacting and were more positive, even those with stage four cancer,” he says.

“Listening to their stories and hearing how they felt, I thought, ‘I really am doing something that is helping, and it truly feels good.’”

Christina Rogers

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  1. Tracey Ananmalay says:

    Hi June,

    I’d be happy to pass this along, but your email address is not displayed. Please drop me a message at tracey @ ananmalay . com

    My folks were just visiting with Jeff & his June.


  2. June Taylor says:

    This is a long shot but have been trying to trace Jeff Brace for sometime, while investigating family history. This CAF museum address was given to me by his late cousin John in Australia. I was married to Jeff’s late cousin Malcolm, who’s Mother was originally Ivy Brace. If you are still in touch with Jeff, perhaps you would give him this message and ask if he would kindly contact me on this email.
    Many thanks,
    June Taylor.

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