February 20th, 1918 – December 6th, 2004
Artist. Athlete. Orator. Poet. Politician. Volunteer. Warrior. Family man. These are but a few of the words that describe the life of Charlie Konvalinka.
To say that Charlie led a very full and satisfying life would be an understatement. Regardless of his pursuits, Charlie embodied a high standard of excellence. He was competitive. He was fair. He was inquisitive. He had a good sense of humour and he laughed often. He expected the best from people and was rarely disappointed. He was blessed with movie star looks, an athletic build and an exceptional brain. Above all else, he was an active participant in this personal voyage called life.
Charlie’s family know from his frequent retelling of certain stories how important the Canadian Air Force was in shaping his life. His involvement with “the Air Force” spanned most of his adult life. Pilot, flight instructor, Squadron Leader, Past President of The Air Cadet League of Canada, or Past President of the Canadian Air Force Officers Association, his involvement took him to most of the major cities in Canada and several more in the United States and Europe. In the process, he made a personal, positive impact on hundreds, if not thousands, of Air Cadets and officers around the world.
As Charlie’s official involvement with the Air Cadets came to a close, he became involved in a yearly tradition of speaking with grade school children at the David Hornell V.C. Public School here in Toronto on Veterans’ Day. Impeccably dressed in his traditional Royal Canadian Air Force uniform, he would patiently answer the children who, in their innocence, asked if he ever shot a gun, if he was taken prisoner, or was he scared. Dad hoped his efforts would help the kids to know that many people gave their lives so that the younger generations could live in peace and freedom.
Involved as he was with a career at the TTC and his various positions with the Air Cadets, Charlie excelled at several hobbies. In his prime, Charlie was a scratch golfer. Well into his seventies, he could still hit the ball straight and true, often scoring in the low eighties. He was asked if he ever hit the ball in the rough. His response – “I tried it once and didn’t like it” was humourous, but also accurate.
Charlie was an internationally known sprinter, a graceful and powerful skater, and a daring and capable skier. Blessed with a considerable musical pedigree from both of his parents, he never turned his talents to music, although he had fine tenor singing voice and was passionately stirred by an eclectic mix of music.
At Christmas, family members were treated to his traditional hand-made cards. In addition to an individually painted scene, he would compose an original poem. When the spirit moved him, which it often did, he would turn to oil paints or watercolours to produce a museum quality portrait or landscape.
Charlie was recently asked what was his greatest memory. He quickly replied with a bright smile, “That’s easy. Marrying Lorraine.” When pressed for his next choice, he responded that it was when he returned from the war and saw his wife and young son from whom he’d been absent for about a year.
If you’re reading this pamphlet, you too were an important person in Charlie’s life. He valued his family. He valued his friends. Charlie would have preferred that this not be an occasion for sadness, although we shall each experience this in our way, but of a cause for celebration and remembrance, for a life truly well lived.