Canada loses heroic Second World War Spitfire pilot and footballer

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News Article / November 2, 2016

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Royal Canadian Air Force Public Affairs

Wing Commander (retired) Tony Golab, a Royal Canadian Air Force Second World War Spitfire pilot, died on October 16, 2016, at the age of 97.

A Windsor, Ontario, boy, Pilot Officer Golab received his wings at No. 2 Service Flying Training School in Uplands, Ontario, just east of Ottawa, on August 28, 1942. Four months later, he and a contingent of the most recent RCAF graduates under the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan arrived in England, ready to take the war to Nazi Germany.

Pilot Officer Golab was missed by his family and friends in Windsor, to be sure, but in Ottawa, many folks kept their eye on him, too. Footballer Tony Golab, a member of the Ottawa Rough Riders club, was twice an Eastern all-star as flying wing – resoundingly appropriate – and three times at half-back. He played with the Rough Riders for nine seasons before and after the war. He was awarded the Lionel Conacher Award by The Canadian Press in 1941 as Canada’s outstanding athlete, and won the Jeff Russel Memorial Trophy in the same year for his playing with the Ottawa Rough Riders. He also starred with the football team of the Uplands Air Station.

His war service was as stellar as his football career. Flying reconnaissance missions, he was shot down twice, and once reported missing in action, during which time he was cared for by Italian Resistance members. He fought the war in the skies over Italy and North Africa.

After the war, Wing Commander (retired) Golab continued with both the Rough Riders and the RCAF.

He worked his way up the RCAF chain of command, serving as chief administrative officer at a Nova Scotia base and an advance flying school in Saskatchewan, where he also served as commanding officer. He sat on the planning staff for the Western NORAD region at a base in Washington state, and served as battle wing commander at an air force base in California.

Tony Golab also coached the Hamilton Panthers (1952-53) and Royal Military College football team (1954-57), and he was general manager of the Canadian Football League’s Montréal Alouettes in 1968-69. As well, he was a consultant to Sport Canada between 1972 and 1984.

He was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1964 and into the Ottawa (1966), Canada’s (1975), Windsor-Essex (1981) and Ontario (1997) sports halls of fame, and he was invested as a Member of the Order of Canada in 1986.

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