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Alberni senior remembers Air Force

Winnifred Koal, who has lived most of her life in Port Alberni, joined the Canadian Air Force in the 1950s.
Abbeyfield resident Winnie Koal enjoys the freedom of living at the seniors’ facility.

Winnie (Winnifred) Koal was born in Swift Current, Saskatchewan. Her father, Kurt Anker, was a German immigrant who came to Canada in 1930, and first landed in Courtenay, where his sister owned a farm. Later he moved to Port Alberni and worked at the Somass Mill for a while.

In 1937, Anker married Katherine, a Russian immigrant, in Port Alberni, and had their first Valley home on a hobby farm by Bainbridge Road, in Beaver Creek, where they lived until 1939.

The same year Anker opened a second-hand store on lower Third Avenue, where a flower shop is today, and became a successful and popular businessman.

The family house was located at the back of the store and they lived there until 1943.

Anker also had a trade on the upholstery business, which he had learned in younger days in Germany.  Later on, with his wife’s assistance, he became a well-known local upholster in the 40s and 50s.

Winnie, who has lived most of her life in Port Alberni, including the years she did her schooling here, joined the Canadian Air Force in the 1950s. She had been advised by one of the school counsellors to join the force services.

“When I was in Grade 12, I didn’t know exactly what I was going to do with my life so I decided to follow my counsellor´s recommendation and serve my country,” she said.

She then enrolled in the Canadian Air Force and served there for the next four years.

“In 1954 I sailed with a contingent of colleagues on the SS Atlantic to Germany.  There I worked as a bilingual switchboard operator for over three years,” she added.

She says that her stay in that country was not only a good working experience but a lifetime opportunity to learn about other places because it allowed her to travel to several locations in Europe, like Holland, Denmark, Norway,  Sweden, the Alps, etc.

While stationed in Germany, she met and married Anthony Thompson, also from the Air Force. The couple had their first daughter there and three more later on in Canada. After their marriage, she left her Air Force posting to look after the family and work for a while at “Kresky´s” coffee shop in Winnipeg. In December 1964 Winnie, Anthony and their daughters moved to Port Alberni where he found a job  at the plywood and pulp mills. Soon after Winnie and Anthony separated.

In 1972 Winnie joined the local Royal Canadian Legion 55, a membership she has kept until today. “In 2016 I received my 45 year-pin.”

Each year she attends the Remembrance Day service to honour those who lost their lives in the wars. This year, at the Nov. 11 service, she represented the Silver Cross Mothers, in honour of the sons lost in the wars.

Winnie married Mr. Paul Koal in 1988. The couple travelled to various places in North America, including Reno, Disneyland, etc.

“After his passing, 10 years ago, I lived on my own in an apartment here in town. My youngest daughter told me that I shouldn’t live alone anymore in that apartment so she decided to contact Abbeyfield. This was near two years ago, so here I am in my new home.” She adds that this was a good decision.

“As a resident of Abbeyfield, I have the freedom to move around and continue doing things in the community, and I love it.”