October 16, 2018

Article at respectnews.ca

From Foisy to St. Paul, via Cape Canaveral

It’s not far from Foisy to St. Paul, unless you follow Paul Paradis’s route.

Paul was born near Foisy, and he and his wife Judy now live in St Paul. Paul’s journey, most of which has been with Judy, has taken him all over Canada, to the United States and Europe, and back.

And while his RCAF career didn’t take him to space, he played a part in the United States’ first manned flight into orbit. Paul was part of a Canadian contingent that deployed from Cold Lake in the early 1960s to help NASA prepare for John Glenn’s famous “Friendship 7” flight, part of the Mercury program.

That milestone mission laid a big part of the groundwork for the Apollo moon landings, and the Canadians shared hangar space with the astronauts themselves.

“For the first two years I was with NASA,” Paul said. “we’d track the rocket launches with the CF-100 Canucks [fighter jets].”

The Mercury training and preparation was conducted out of Patrick Air Force Base near Cape Canaveral, Florida. It was hard work in a high-security environment, Paul says—but it wasn’t all work.

“We had a clubhouse on the beach,” he remembers. “For a dollar and a quarter you could have all the shrimp you could possibly eat. And I just loved that!”

The experience has left him with an enduring interest in the space program. He says he’s a big fan of Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield and all he has done to educate people about space travel. “He’s done more to get Canadians to become astronauts than anyone else,” Paul said, adding with a laugh, “he’s my hero!”

Paul returned to Cold Lake from Florida in 1964, and married Judy in Winnipeg in 1965. They spent some time in Cold Lake and in Bagotville, Quebec. “I asked for Bonnyville, they sent me to Bagotville!” he said. “There was a mistake there somewhere. I didn’t want to go east, but you end up wherever.”

From 1971 to 1974, Paul and Judy were stationed at 4 Wing in Baden-Soellingen, Germany. From there they were posted to Namao, near Edmonton, and then on to Yellowknife.

They have fond memories of the north. Judy had no trouble finding work, and Paul worked on Twin Otter search and rescue aircraft for 440 Squadron. They eventually returned to CFB Edmonton before retiring in 1987.

Paul says it was Judy’s earnings from Yellowknife that allowed them buy their retirement property at Lac Santé.

They lived at Lac Santé until recently. They loved their house and property there, and they had great relationships with their neighbours—some of whom were also military veterans.

“Paul had a sign made calling the place Old Buzzards’ Junction,” Judy said, adding the nickname is only partly because of the turkey vultures that nested nearby. Paul laughs when he talks about the neighbourhood.

“We used to get drunk and have big arguments: ‘You’re the best neighbour!’ ‘No, you are!’” he said.

Despite some anxiety over their still-unsold house, the two have settled comfortably in St Paul. They are able to get around, and both enjoy floor curling.

Judy and Paul Paradis have lived all over Canada and in Gemany, but St. Paul is their home.