One of the Great Ones

Lac du Bonnet’s own Frank Hanton was recently saluted by Don Cherry for his hockey prowess and military accomplishments.Scan0002[7434]

It’s not every day one of Lac du Bonnet’s own gets recognized by Don Cherry and Ron MacLean, the two faces of Hockey Night in Canada.

Frank Hanton was honoured by the pair in February 2017 for not only his storied hockey career, but for his service to his country as well. Hanton was originally from Kenora, where he played for the Kenora Thistles and during the 1939/40 hockey season made it to the Memorial Cup Final. As if that weren’t exciting enough for a Kenora boy, in 1941 he was called up to the Boston Bruins training camp.

But just as Hanton’s hockey career began to take off, he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force as a pilot, beginning a whole new career that earned him a lot of recognition. He took part in the raid on Dieppe as well as D-Day operations. He destroyed 54 enemy supply trains and numerous enemy aircraft. He was known as the top “train buster” in the Allied Forces.

“He figured out it was better to bomb the tracks instead of the trains. He just bombed the tracks out right in front of the trains. It slowed down the war effort,” says his son Craig Hanton, who lives in Lac du Bonnet and runs an auto repair service.

In 1944, Frank’s plane caught on fire over Normandy. He escaped, landing in a field of rocks. His face was severely burned, and he would become one of the first Canadian military members to undergo experimental skin graft surgery.

“It was called the ‘Guinea Pig Club’ because they were doing experiments with skin grafting in England,” says Craig. “It was in a military hospital. It’s an amazing story, I’ll always remember my dad telling me about it.” Incredibly, Frank returned to flying after only a month of treatment.

“Most guys would say, ‘I’ve had enough, I’m done,'” Don Cherry said. “This guy was one of the greatest Canadians of all time.”

After the Second World War, Frank moved to Lac du Bonnet where he and his wife Joyce raised their family. He continued his flying career with the Manitoba Government Air Service until his retirement in 1978. Frank and Joyce moved to Regina, where Frank assumed the directorship of the Saskatchewan Government Executive and Air Ambulance Services, retiring a second time in 1984.

In 1983, Frank was appointed Aide de Camp to the Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan, serving two terms. In 1988, he was made Honorary Colonel of Air Commands Moose Jaw training base. At age 77, he had completed an incredible 35,000 hours of flying time. He passed away in 2002 at the age of 82.

Having his dad saluted by the likes of Don Cherry is a huge honour, Craig adds. His cousin Warren, who lives in Kenora, agrees. “I’m pleased we finally got his story to all Canadians,” Warren says.

To see the video clip on Coach’s Corner, visit the following link and go to the 4:50 mark:

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