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John Minahan Harcourt

Life Stories

Captin, pilot, father, grandfather, great grandfather, brother, Uncle

Born: December 28, 1926
Died: August 27, 2012 in Fergus
Interred: Marymount, Guelph

John was born in Guelph in 1926. He was the son of Dr. William Harcourt, a well known local surgeon and general practitioner. His father was a kind and generous man, a dedicated doctor and Christian, who showed his sons the meaning of faith and sacrifice through example.
John attended the Guelph Collegiate and studied at McGill University. He had a love of the classics and could quote from almost every famous author and book but he dreamed of being a pilot. As a young child in the 1920s, he was playing in his backyard one warm summer day when he heard a noise. He looked up and there in the sky was a bright yellow biplane slowly flying past. He knew right then what he wanted to do.

John dropped out of university after first year and together with a cousin and friends bought an old biplane. He spent every available hour out at the Guelph airpark flying until he had enough hours for his commercial licence. During this time, he dated and eventually married his high school sweetheart, Joany Dunbar.

His first flying job was for a company called Hollinger. He flew DC3 transport planes for the building of the railway into Labrador and the building of the DEW Line across Northern Canada. During his career, John flew a wide variety of aircraft from biplanes to jets, for several different companies, to almost every continent. When he retired, he had spent a total of more than five years of his life in the air.

The most important part of his life was spent on the ground with his wife and family. He and Joan raised 7 children on a farm near Moffat and later near Arthur, Ontario. The challenges were many. In addition to everyday struggles, he had to cope with the death of his father, brother, mother and a son. Through it all, his unwavering faith and love of God helped him to deal with life’s hardships and bask in its rewarding moments. Prayer and practice of his faith was exceedingly important to John. He tried to set the same example for his children that his father had set for him. He encouraged them to pray daily and look to their faith for the strength and guidance that helped him to succeed in life.