Aviation pioneer Vern Frostad – Ontario, CA
Aviation pioneer WAS MEMBER OF CANADA’S SILVER STARS: Cleared ground personally for Cornwall airport.
INGLESIDE — Vern Frostad was an aviation pioneer both internationally and on his own field, which eventually became the Cornwall Regional Airport.
“He loved flying,” said Frostad’s widow, Beverley (Kim) Frostad on Sunday from their Ault Island home.
“And what he did with the regional airport, has he cleared the land himself (and) put in a dirt runway,” Beverley said, of the property Frostad owned about 13 kilometers east of Cornwall in what was then Charlottenburgh Township (now South Glengarry).
Frostad, who began flying after enlisting with the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second World War, saw the need for a permanently local airport.
“He thought it was a good location, (Cornwall) being a border town and being close to Montreal and the capital (Ottawa). He said before there shouldn’t have been Dorval (in Montreal), (Cornwall) should have been enlarged.”
Frostad is involved with the airport’s daily operations as Chief Pilot — even performing duties without pay.
This aptitude for embracing challenges was probably his greatest personality trait — and it was most evident both in his earlier adult year and into old age.
Frostad was an early member of the Canadian Forces Snowbirds’ predecessor demonstration team, called the Silver Stars Acrobatic Flying Team.
“It was quite a thing then, to fly in formation,” Beverley said.
“It wasn’t like the jets now. It was a lot different — I think it would be (even) riskier to be that close.”
Frostad also performed more formal duties, including escorting dignitaries during inspections, such as Princess Margaret during her royal visit to Canada.
“He had certain clearances,” Beverley said, of the famous people he accompanied, such as Princess Margaret and U.S. Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy.
Frostad would come to lean on his strong character in his 60s when he suffered severe head trauma after a motor vehicle accident in 1988 that left with a speech impairment and partial disability.
“This showed what a determined man he was,” Beverley said, of his recovery.
Told he would likely never walk again, Frostad worked diligently so he could achieve limited mobility for most of his remaining life.
“Without his determination — and mine — he would never have gotten better.
“Eventually he was able to use an electric cart, so he would be able to go around the island. We got a second cart so I go can with him.”
Frostad’s role as the regional airport’s founder was in danger of being forgotten, but his legacy was finally preserved when the commercial area of the airport was designated last December as ‘The Vern Frostad Aviation Business Park’.
“When they (airport officials) came to our house, he had tears in his eyes when I told him there would be recognized. I was so thankful that he got recognized before he died.”
Frostad was born in Assiniboine, Sask. in 1921 to Norwegian immigrants.
After his air force service, he became proprietor of a Shell Service Centre in Bainsville, South Glengarry.
He was first married to Jean and they had five children, Kaaren, Eric, Kim, Leif and John. He also had four step-children with Beverley: Anthony, Alison and Jason Bateman and Janet Kirkland.