“Butterflies” is written by Dawn Wojtyk for husband Ron on the occasion of his retirement from the Canadian Armed Forces. It has the distinction of being my best column in these pages, written by a most talented writer. It was first published here, with her permission, on 4th October, 2012. It is fitting that this post, of all of my columns, should be re-published here.
I must also mention the special place held in our hearts for Dawn and Ron Wojtyk who have been our closest friends for more than 35 years. They held our hands through four funerals, stood in the Anglican congregation when I became Christian so long ago at the age of 31, and the Christenings for our children. Dawn and Ron are god-parents for my second son, Jason.
This column nearly marks the last of the columns rescued from the crash of my website, which was not caused by an internet muddle but, rather, the columns were deleted, in a moment of anger, at the WYSIWYG text editor provided by WordPress. The new one doesn’t function much better, but I couldn’t stay away from writing long enough to wait for a better one.
My favourite story about my husband, LCol Ron Wojtyk involves butterflies. Ron had some leave to burn up in late March and decided to visit his godfather in St. Catharines. On the way, he pulled into the butterfly museum, a place we had always wanted to visit but never quite had the time to take in. While he was there, he noticed an American gentleman with a logo on his shirt and asked him about the insignia as he knew it related to military medicine. The fellow ended up being the initial contact for the Physician Assistant program.
Ron had said that for years he had thought it would be a good idea for the CF medics to be able to work in the civilian world because at that point in time, when a nurse left the military he/she had a job they could slide into, but the medics had nothing of the sort to turn to.. Ron asked this gentleman if he would be amenable to Ron sending a couple of medics to the U.S. and picking his brain as to how to get a physician assistant program off the ground. He “stole” some funds from the base hospital and sent Tom Ashman and Jeff Hillis to the U.S.. Ron did without Tom as his hospital warrant officer for over a year while he guided, mentored, steered, pushed, and held Tom and Jeff’s feet to the fire.
Ideas and lofty wishes of a physician assistant’s program are all good and fine, but it took an inordinate amount of work and a tremendous amount of will in the face of all the naysayers to lift the whole project off the ground in those early days through a medical, legal and constitutional maze. When the P.A. program started to look like it had the promise of legs, Ottawa got on board and by then it was everyone’s newborn baby. When I see a P.A. in a hospital or in a doctor’s office, I smile ever so slightly because I know they have that job as a profession and can support their families, because my husband went to a butterfly museum and literally started the metamorphosis of medics into physician assistants.
Throughout all these years as his wife, countless members have come up to me and remarked on how “calm and cool” my husband is. I like to think that he taught Obama everything he knows about being cool, collected, cerebral and most of all willing to listen and consider all sides. When you sit down with Ron at a table to discuss something, you never know what cosmic rays you are going to be buzzed with because of his “out of the box” thinking. Trust me, I am his wife and I don’t always appreciate those cosmic rays! I saw Ron happiest in his work, aside from treating patients in hospital and bending over backwards to help his staff get access to whatever kind of further education they needed, when he was teaching and training at the Medical Services School in Borden. On his watch, the training program was shut down while all the courses were put on floppy discs and the computer for the first time. When he left to go to Kingston, he said in his farewell speech, “We could do so much more because there is this thing called the internet”. Being a strategic thinker does not pave a yellow brick road for you in Ottawa, but it does plant seeds and it has been rewarding to see some of those seeds quietly take root and grow.
From my perch, we have had a ridiculously full life in the military. From that first posting message to Baden when we had to ask “What does this 2PPCLI stand for?”, to all the countries we have visited, to exposing our two truly beautiful children, Che and Mary, to life in a different land, to packing, to moving, to praying our lives would not be irrevocably changed by a tour in Afghanistan, and yes, even living in a PMQ was fun for a few years…it has been a good life. That is the thing about the military…it is always making you do stuff and go places that you never thought you would. Throughout all this time I have watched him take excellent care of his patients, care deeply for his staff and love his family to bits…in a very quiet and unassuming manner. He has always done what is right, never once lost his integrity along the way and that is my very favourite thing about him.
The silver thread of all these years in the CF has been the really fine and caring people whom we have met along the way and the wonderful friends that we have made, notably the Lennon Sisters and the Kirschwasser Boys, who took us under their wing when our furnace broke down on Christmas Day in 1986. We were really cold and we needed a lot of Kirschwasser! It has always been friends that have made up for all the hardships that come with living a military lifestyle. I distinctly remember driving onto base and being completely overwhelmed after the first couple of months in Germany with all the new rules and regulations. I was watching the wives and families during that first Fallex and thinking “Boy, nothing about running a family is easy here” and I realized that if they, as a family, can go through all they have to go through and keep things together…they must be exceptional folks! And, I think you know who you are.
I met Ron in grade 9, Miss Read’s french class. He walked me home from the library one Friday night and we have been walking beside each other ever since…through high school, university, grad school, med school, babies, children, grandchildren, a whole life in the military…this is not really retirement…it is just the next step!
Professional. Retired. Canadian.