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April 8 a painful day for son whose mother died in mid-air collision 70 years ago

The Moose Jaw Museum and Art Gallery held a special commemoration event on April 8 to honour the mid-air collision and people killed in it, with nearly 50 people in attendance, including four generations of the Hadwen family.

For the past 70 years, Larry Hadwen has paused every April 8 to remember his mother, Martha, who was one of 37 people killed when two planes collided over Moose Jaw. 

Martha, 36, was cleaning the Gordon Hume home on Third Avenue Northeast on that fateful day in 1954 when a Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Harvard training plane and a Trans-Canada Airlines (TCA) North Star collided in clear skies at 10:02 a.m. Parts of the airliner crashed into the home and killed Mrs. Hadwen, who was the only local fatality.

Meanwhile, the crash also killed RCAF officer Thomas Andrew Thorrat and the 35 people on the passenger plane.   

The Moose Jaw Museum and Art Gallery held a special commemoration event on April 8 with nearly 50 people in attendance, including four generations of the Hadwen family, municipal dignitaries, 15 Wing Airbase personnel, and poet Robert (Bob) Currie.

Afterward, people could place flowers in an exhibit room dedicated to the crash. Harriet Hynes, 6, the great-great-granddaughter of Mrs. Hadwen, was one person to do so. 

Whenever this date rolls around, Hadwen becomes 11 years old again and remembers walking to Empire School with his mother and brother, Bill. He recalls reaching the playground and saying goodbye to his mom “just like a normal day,” without knowing what would eventually happen.

“As I got older, I got thinking, what she was doing when she died was looking after kids. And it means a lot,” he said emotionally. “And like Bob described in his poem, she was a cleaning lady, (but) she was lot more than that to us.”

Hadwen recalled being outside at recess and hearing kids talk about the crash but not thinking much about it. However, while playing baseball, a thought of, “I wonder where my mother is?” popped into his head. An older cousin later picked up the Hadwen brothers and told them the grim news. 

“But I knew … (because) as soon as the principal came to the room to get us, I knew what happened,” he continued. 

Hadwen, 81, emotionally said that he arrived home to see his four-year-old sister Marie — not comprehending the situation — sitting by the window waiting for their mother to come back from work. 

Mrs. Hadwen’s funeral was held four days later at the Alliance Tabernacle Church, with more than 500 people attending, including the mayor and aldermen. Hadwen recalled going to the cemetery and watching the casket sink into the ground.

Hadwen doesn’t visit the cemetery often, although his last trip was about four years ago when he buried his daughter there beside his mother. 

“It still looks like it did back then; nothing’s changed,” he said, adding his younger brother Bill died several years ago while Marie now lives in British Columbia.

Hadwen later taught for 27 years at Central Collegiate and met Bob Currie, with the two becoming friends. He appreciated the community poet — a good guy and “very sensitive man” — reciting some verses during the ceremony. 

“I loved (the poem). It’s so personal,” Hadwen added. “I had to catch my breath for a moment … as he was reading it because nobody reads like a poem like Bob Currie does. He’s one of my heroes.”

Paula Shareski, Larry’s daughter, said her grandmother’s death was tough on the family, with Marie going to live with an aunt and uncle because the father, Steve, was unable to look after all three kids; Steve never recovered from the incident. Yet, Larry and Marie have reconnected as adults and become close. 

The family appreciates the MJMAG for putting on the service and having a dedicated room, she added. She brings her children and grandchildren there since it has become a special place. 

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