Remembering a Much Beloved Métis Veteran
By Linda Lord
Ralph Earl Scofield was born in Margo, Saskatchewan on February 26, 1925, to Ralph William Scofield, a drover and farmer, and Clara Marie Chartrand, the daughter of Marie Cecile Ducharme and Gaspard Chartrand. In about two years, the family moved to The Pas, where Earl’s sister “Claire” was born.
After the separation of their parents, the children lived with their maternal grandparents, Marie and Gaspard Chartrand in The Pas where they attended Sacred Heart Catholic School. Grandfather Gaspard was a Métis fiddle player and a great step-dancer. He was employed as a fur buyer for the Northwest Fur Company and Revillion Frères Fur Company.
At about eight years of age Earl moved to Winnipeg with his sister, his mother, and her new partner, Bernard William Engman (BW). They were only in Winnipeg for about a year before moving to Timmins, Ontario, so that BW could look for work in the gold mines in the Porcupine area.
This was the time of The Great Depression and, as Senator Earl remembered: “We were squatters, and lived in an old bunk house near Fulham Creek by the Desantis Mine. When B.W. found work, he built a tar paper shack as the family home located near the cemetery on Pine Street in Timmins. There, my sister and I attended Central Public School.
“B.W. walked every day, summer and winter, looking for work at the local mine. My mother played the piano at local dances and my sister and I picked potatoes on Mr. M.J. Tinkiss’ potato farm, near Cooks Lake on the edge of town. Around 1935, when I was 10 years old, I had four sled dogs that were used to haul wood for our kitchen stove. To feed the dogs, we boiled bones and guts from the abattoir with cornmeal, oatmeal or dry bread, as well as the meat scraps from the butcher shops. On weekends, Fridays and Saturdays, the local grocery stores would take their vegetables and fruits to the city dump and would pass our place. When the fruits and vegetables were thrown in the garbage dump, I would hitch up the dogs and go to salvage what was still usable. My mother would wash everything, cut and peel the fruit to cook and bottle it up. While in the bush getting wood, I would set a brass snare wire to catch rabbits. Life was very hard in the Great Depression.”
At the age of 14 Earl got a job working for an Italian farmer on Nabob Road at the creek. He was paid 50 cents each day, and received room and board. He gave all of his money ($15 a month) to his mother. It was a hard life: waking before daylight every day. There were plenty of chores to look after, such as cleaning the barn, pumping hundreds of gallons of water out of the creek for three horses, and 20 cows, bulls, pigs, and chickens. He worked on the farm for a couple of years until he was 16 years old in 1941.
Earl’s next job was at Pizzali Brothers International Bakery, making Italian bread for 12 dollars per week and one loaf of bread per day. Meanwhile, he attended night school at Timmins High and Vocational School to learn machine shop and other related skills. After completing his courses, Earl found a job at the Dome Mine machine shop in South Porcupine making water pumps for the Navy.
By now, the Second World War had begun and using his step-father’s name (Engman), both Earl and BW joined the Algonquin Regiment Militia Reserve Army and began training at Niagara-on-the-Lake. A year later Senator Earl turned 18 and volunteered for the Royal Canadian Air Force.
Ralph Earl Scofield took the oath of allegiance with 26 other men at the theatre in Timmins, Ontario. First, he was sent to Edmonton, Alberta, then Mont Joli, Quebec and attended McGill University in pre-air crew training for the Air Force. As a graduate, Earl went to Three Rivers, Montreal, and Lachine, Quebec, before being sent to England to train on two-engine Wellington bombers, and then to a heavy conversion unit to train on Halifax four-engine bombers.
With this training completed Earl was sent to active duty on squadrons of Halifax bombers. The Halifax weighed 35 tons when loaded with bombs, seven or eight men, and 2200 gallons of 100 octane gas. Senator Scofield completed 17 missions over Germany, bombing targets mostly at night. When he was posted to 415 Swordfish Squadron at Eastmoor, Yorkshire, he found that his mother’s brother, Roger Chartrand, from The Pas, Manitoba, was at the same base but he was at 432 Squadron, called “Leaside”. During these war years there were four brothers in uniform and on active duty overseas: Earl’s brother “Cecil” is buried in Belgium; his step-brother, Henry Villeneuve, was in the army; Jules Villeneuve was in the Air force, and is buried in England.
“On January 4, 1945, while attempting to take off for a bombing mission”, Senator Earl recalled, “We left the runway and passed between stockpiles of bombs. At a speed of over 100 miles per hour, we crashed into the trees on the far side of the aerodrome. At impact, I was thrown out of the tail turret and flew through the air and landed on a fallen tree. I had hurt my legs and my back. I was blown right out of my flight boots, but got up and ran until my legs could no longer support me. Our bomber exploded and burned up. All of our crew got out with only burns and minor injuries.”
When the war ended in Europe, Senator Earl was sent home for a month’s leave in Timmins before going off to fight Japan. However, the Americans dropped the atomic bombs on Japan and the war was over.
Earl was honourably discharged as a “Flight Sergeant Air Gunner” and began looking for work in the Timmins area. He tried lumbering, but found the mosquitoes and black flies more than he could bear. Earl said: “In that part of our world you are either in lumbering or mining, and...there aren’t many mosquitoes underground,” so he went back to work at the Dome Mine.
In 1950 Earl moved to the Windsor area where he worked five years for GM and then took a course in electronics and with that new skill went to the Chrysler Corporation until his retirement 28 years later.
Senator Scofield received many well-deserved honours. He was a proud Métis, active with the Métis Nation of Ontario, Windsor, Essex, Kent Métis Council. He attended many MNO Annual General Assemblies (AGA), including AGA 2012, where he was presented with the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.
He was also a recipient of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal; was invited and attended powwows where he participated in the Grand Entries carrying the eagle staff in honour of the veterans; was asked to be one of three elders on a dispute resolution committee for Health Canada in Windsor; was a member of the Air Force Club, the Canadian Legion, the National Aboriginal Veterans Association (NAVA) and the Métis Nation of Ontario Veterans’ Association (MNOVA).
Executive Senator, Reta Gordon, reminisced about Senator Earl and what a major presence he was among the MNO Senators, the MNO Veterans, and the MNO as a whole. “He always called me, ‘ma petite soeur Métisse’ (my little Métis sister) and I always called him, ‘mon grand frère Métis’ (my big Métis brother). Reta recalled his arrival at the MNO AGA 2012, and said that one could feel a thrill go through the crowd, “as if the king had just arrived. Marion Larkman was the ‘matriarch’ of the Métis Nation, and Earl was the ‘patriarch.’” Reta said that she would like to rededicate the prayer she composed for the late Marion Larkman (1926 – 2006) and offer it on behalf of Senator Earl.
Great Creator, you have called our brother Earl to you.
We ask that you welcome our brother.
I offer this sacred tobacco, as I offer the prayer for the fallen warrior as
He has gone on his long trip across the dark waters.
His spirit is now free from all that has pained him. We thank
Grandfather from the east who gave Earl the light to guide him on his path.
We thank Grandfather from the south who gave him the warmth
Along the different paths that Earl chose throughout his life.
We thank Grandmother Moon who protected him
With her soft moonbeams as he slept.
We thank Grandmother Sun who helped to nourish him
And allowed him to grow strong.
Oh Great Creator, may you send down the blessing of the rain, the soft
Summer rains to fall upon Mother Earth so that the little flowers may
Spring up to shed their sweet fragrance above Earl’s resting place.
May Mother Earth be soft under Earl as he rests upon it, tired at
The end of his days.
May Mother Earth rest softly over you Earl, that your spirit
May be out from under it quickly and up and on its way to the Creator.
Long rest dear brother. You have earned it.
Hay ya! Hay ya! Tashay!
Senator Scofield was well-known and much-loved.
“It is with great sadness that I learned today that one of our beloved Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) veterans, Senator Earl Scofield, passed away last night (2 November, 2012) in Windsor.
“I have had the privilege of knowing Senator Scofield for many years. He was an incredible person and a dedicated Métis citizen who had served the MNO in many capacities. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”
President, Métis Nation of Ontario
Senator Earl Scofield, a true friend.
I am deeply saddened to know that my dear friend, Senator Earl Scofield is no longer among us. His passing leaves a huge void within the Métis Nation. A kind and generous man of the highest order, his devotion and affection for those he cared for was unsurpassed. I am eternally grateful to have known and felt that kindness and loyalty. He was a dignified but joyful and lovely man. I will miss him, his strength, and his sense of purpose. But I will find warmth in feeling the continuing presence of his spirit.
Founding President, Métis Nation of Ontario
Métis Senator/Veteran Earl R. Scofield, WWII Veteran, also known to his friends as "Boots", always took time to share his stories and had a special relationship with the MNO Youths--always with words of encouragement and a smile. He will surely be missed by the Métis Nation of Ontario.
Joseph Paquette, President MNOVC
Earl was the most charming, witty, honest, brave and generous man I have ever met. I will never forget the lessons and wisdom he has taught me over the past few months. I will miss his emails and phone calls in which I would always hear his hearty laugh and his “I love you!” at the end. I am so thankful to have known Earl. He was such a beautiful and loving person who has contributed so much to our country as a WW2 vet and a long-time passionate member of the Métis Nation of Ontario.
Thinking of you always Earl, I promise to pass down the wisdom you have taught me to my future students.
RIP my friend, I love you Boots!
I am very sad to hear of the passage of our friend Earl Scofield.
At the last AGA, right after the election of the PCMNO Senators, I was speaking with Earl and asked him to pray for me that I might be a benefit to the Métis people as a PCMNO Senator. And, being the type of person that he was, he started to give me words of encouragement which helped me a lot. Then we started to talk about God--you could surely tell that this was a man who loved his Creator, and now he is with him.
As a veteran, he contributed so much to his country and he was such an encouragement to all who got to know him.
We are grieving because we will miss him, but we can also celebrate his life because of the impact he has left on every one of us. This is not a sad ending for Earl Scofield, this is a happy beginning for him. He is at peace and at rest with his Creator. We are praying for his family and his loved ones that God will strengthen them as they go through this great loss.
Knowing him has made a positive difference in my life.
As we grieve the passing of Senator Earl Scofield we know he is in a better place, at peace with his Creator. I have learned through experience: it is those left behind that grieve, not for the Senator but for ourselves. They make such an impression on us we do not want to see them leave. As all of us know, Senator Scofield did just that, left us with memories, his knowledge, humour and of course his dedication to the Métis people. My recollection is of the Senators’ meeting when Senator Reta Gordon asked him to say the closing prayer; it was straight from the heart; he stated it would probably be his last closing prayer as his health was failing.
A little verse I read somewhere: "When we are born, we come into the world crying as people standing around us laugh for joy, as we leave this world, we leave smiling with joy as people around us cry"
My deepest sympathy to the family and friends of Senator Scofield.
I met Senator Earl at my first AGA in Thunder Bay, in 2007; we connected right away. He treated me as a veteran despite the fact that I never served over seas. In my time, unlike today, women did not serve in missions, especially not in conflict areas.
I was very honoured to be present at the 2007 AGA, when, amongst six deserving veterans, Earl received his eagle feather from an Elder at the Sacred Fire. And at the 2009 AGA, when he received a cap, a veteran ceinture fléchée, and a sketch of himself that all the senators signed; he was truly touched by that.
Earl was always there to answer my questions when I was a rooky senator; he was very patient, gracious and always friendly. He will be sorely missed by his family, his fellow veterans and senators, his Métis family and the Nation as a whole.
Earl you may have lost your boots during the war, but you certainly passed into the spirit world with them on; rest in peace my dear friend.
Senator Alis Kennedy
You have called our warrior to your protection.
Let his spirit like an eagle soar with the spirits of the four directions.
He has done with his time on earth. He is gone to his welcoming home on the other side, wearing his badge that speaks of his inherent goodness, his quiet attention, his respect for others and his dignified behaviour.
Great Mystery, in life you provided our Senator and Air Force veteran with
Strength to overcome the biting winds, light to guide him on the path he chose, warmth along the roads he walked, and then you smiled on him and guided him to a different flight.
Send your blessings down like a gentle autumn rain falling on Mother Earth, as she cradles our brother in her arms.
Mother Earth, let winter’s snowy blanket rest lightly, so that his spirit may be on its way like an eagle soaring homeward.
His Spirit is free from troubles as he makes his journey.
We offer our prayer of thanks that you will always be at Earl’s side on his way to his new home.
Bless those he leaves behind, with the strength of eagles’ wings to help them through this unpredictable and unavoidable time. May the songs of winds in the trees sweep the void from their hearts.
Hear our thanks for the time with Earl.
Prayer for Earl Scofield
I'm very saddened by the passing of a good friend. Always gave me knowledge and traditional values. His smile brought sunshine even on rainy days. On behalf of the Sudbury Metis Council and myself (Senator Kempton Gravelle) send our thoughts and prayers to the family.
Last night the Spirit, Creator, called home a great man of the Métis Nation, Senator Earl Scofield-Veteran, Elder, Friend is now in the arms of the spirit.
On behalf of the MNOYC I want to offer our sincerest condolences to the Scofield Family.
Let us take time to reflect on the things the Senator brought to us in his life. Let us take time to remember how important it is for us to spend time with our elders and teachers while we can.
My sadness is not for the Senator who is now at peace and exploring the realm of the spirits, but for us and our Nation who have lost a great teacher, a compass for us to all take guidance from. A tireless advocate for Métis youth we can all learn so much from him and his actions.
Prayers will be sent out tonight and for the next 4 nights for the Senator `Boots` as he crosses through that western doorway, for his family, friends, the Métis Community in Windsor and for the entire Métis Nation at this time.
We will miss you greatly Boots, but we will never forget you or your work.
PCMNO Youth Representative
See ALL news articles