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Obituary of Albert Ralph HORNER
Naval Aviator, Sailor, Businessman, Dad, and All Round Character has earned his wings.
He is survived by his beloved wife Debbie, daughters, Victoria and Robyn, four sisters Maureen (Tom), Leah (Richard), Rosemary (Dan), Colleeen (George) and sister in law Alice (late John Horner). The Family would like to thank the doctors and staff at BCCA and RJH Hospice for all their kindness and care.
Al Horner was born at a very early age in Saskatchewan and attended public school in Toronto and high school in Newmarket Ontario. From school he obtained an appointment to HMCS Venture, the navy’s new, innovative Officer’s training programme in Esquimalt. After graduation in 1956 he was selected for pilot training with the USN and received his wings at Kingsville Texas before being posted to the aircraft carrier HMCS BONAVENTURE. It was during this time, whilst the ship was on exercise in the Mediterranean, that he met his future bride, Debbie, a glamourous BEA stewardess, in Gibraltar. He flew with both operational squadrons, VS 881 & VS 880 and wooed his bride by post, persuading her to cross the Altlantic and marry him in 1961. In 1963 he was appointed to VU-33 in Pat Bay and later that year, became a new Dad. He then served as Flag Lieutenant to Rear Admiral M.G. Stirling, Flag Officer Pacific Coast. In 1966, he was appointed to HMCS YUKON as Senior Watchkeeper and Deck Officer and later, his second daughter was christened on-board. With the oncoming unification and the elimination of Naval Aviation from the Navy he resigned from the Regular Force in 1967 and transferred to the Naval Reserve. From this point on he ran parallel civilian and Naval careers.
As a new and enthusiastic Reserve officer, he worked hard to ensure that Reservists received the same or greater training than their Regular force counterparts. He also campaigned for the Reserve to have its own role and responsibilities. He spent several years as Senior Staff Officer Reserves in The Fourth Training Squadron where he commanded several ships carrying out both Regular and Reserve Junior Officer Sea Training.
A keen exponent of the naval beard, he refused to ‘shave off’ and was subsequently appointed to bring HMCS ORIOLE out of mothballs, because Admiral Leir though a naval sailing ship needed a bearded master. As her Captain for 18 months, he created a program to teach Regular Force junior officers seamanship, basic navigation and how to be in the Navy, not just the Armed Forces. He was a senior Naval Control of Shipping officer and a Convoy Commodore Staff Officer. After Commanding HMCS Malahat for 4.5 years he was appointed Senior Staff Officer Coastal Defense and was one of the two officers who created the first Coastal Defense Plan for the west coast of Canada.
Despite claiming to be not very diplomatic, he was Honourary Aide de Camp to five Lieutenant Governors of British Columbia, one Governor General and was liaison officer for the UK during the Commonwealth Games in Victoria in 1994.
He was awarded the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Medal in 1977 and the 125th year of Confederation medal in 1992. Commander Horner was appointed an Officer of the Order of Military Merit in 1979. He was also awarded the Canadian Forces Decoration for long service, with two clasps.
Since nobody said that you couldn’t start a computer service bureau with $5,000.00, Al created Alpha Data in 1968. The company remained viable for 6 years before being acquired by another firm in Victoria. He subsequently operated the Victoria office of Computer Sciences Canada . When CSC shut down their west coast operations, he joined the Victoria and District Hospitals Management Engineering Unit. He earned a Diploma in Hospital Organization and Management (HOM) from the University of Manitoba. Al joined the Public Service as a Director in the Office of the Comptroller General and was Project Director/Manager for the implementation of a wide variety of financial and personnel management systems. During this time, he famously eliminated his own position 3 times.
On retirement from the Public Service he became a Consultant and was responsible for a number of major system implementations across North America. He wrote a regular column, Press Any Key, for Computerworld Canada for four years and contributed articles to several Boating magazines.
A passionate sailor, Al took his family on boating holidays throughout the Gulf Islands whenever he had the chance. He owned two sailboats, Time Out and Water Rat II and spent nearly as much time upgrading them as he did sailing them. He was also a keen and accomplished woodworker. He would carve, make furniture or create inlays and marquetry with equal skill. He loved to make traditional wooden toys, fancy boxes and latterly, bread boards and walking sticks.
Al also displayed a lively sense of humour and not a little irreverence for what he called “empty authority”. He certainly wasn’t afraid to speak out if he though it necessary. In retirement, he was happy to lend his experience and enthusiasm to several volunteer organisations including the Friends of the Ashton Armoury Museum and several theatre groups. Not surprisingly, he also loved cats.
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