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Second World War hero 'was a true gentleman'

Celebration of life for Dr. Jim McPhee, who practised in KIng City and at York Central Hospital before retirement at 84, will be held Friday at the Barrie legion

A Second World War veteran who had a tale of great bravery and was known to be a "true gentleman" has died.

Dr. Jim McPhee passed away peacefully on Oct. 8 with his family by his side at the Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre.

He was 94.

A celebration of McPhee's life is set for Friday.

McPhee was born March 18, 1925 in Ophir, Ont., east of Sault Ste. Marie, as the eighth of nine children to Agnus and Elizabeth.

During the Second World War, McPhee signed up for the Royal Canadian Air Force at 18 years old where he began his medical testing. Upon completing training, he was shipped to England for more.

Barrie Royal Canadian Legion parade marshal Fern Taillefer said he will miss his friend’s humility, but said he most certainly was a hero.

“He would often say he was not a hero,” Taillefer said. “I disagree. Jim was certainly a hero and he may not have opened up about his story for a while, but when he did, it was something else.”

In a story published by BarrieToday in November 2018, McPhee survived his plane being shot down and being held as a prisoner of war before escaping and making his way back to Canada. 

“I wasn’t a hero. I’m a survivor. The ones that died are the heroes,” McPhee said at the time.

McPhee practised family medicine in Gravenhurst, King City and Richmond Hill until his retirement in 1992.

He continued working until 2009, at the age of 84, at the orthopedic surgical unit at York Central Hospital, now called Mackenzie Health.

McPhee was instrumental in the establishment of York Central Hospital, where he also served on the medical advisory committee and for a time as chief of staff. He was also a past-president of the Ontario College of Family Physicians. 

Taillefer said he and McPhee would often meet up to talk over lunch.

“Jim was great to talk with, lots of life experience and very friendly,” he said. “He honestly was a true gentleman. That is one thing I would call him more than anything else.

"We had great conversations over meals and at some legion events," Taillefer added. "He will be missed by so many, but we all know he led a full and amazing life.”

A celebration of life will be held at the Barrie branch of the Royal Canadian Legion, located at 410 Vincent St., on Friday, Nov. 22 from 1-5 p.m.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Veterans Club of Barrie or the Royal Canadian Legion.


Shawn Gibson

About the Author: Shawn Gibson

Shawn Gibson is a staff writer based in Barrie
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