Regimental Number: M562590 & J28581
Rank: Flying Officer
Fernand and Madeline (Koecher Gorré) Clesse along with Madeline’s two children, Antoine and Francois Gorré, decided to move from Holden to Northern Alberta in 1915 after reading about the possibility of land ownership by means of homestead applications. He filed on SW 19-72-3-W6 in an area of Bezanson known as East Kleskun. They built a log house that was heated with wood. Lighting was by means of coal-oil lamps and candles. The land was cleared by hand and the farming was accomplished by mules and horses. Joe was born in May 1918. Fernand passed away on December 11, 1918 from the Spanish Influenza and was buried in the Bear Creek section of the Grande Prairie Cemetery. Joe attended the East Kleskun School and enjoyed softball and woodworking.
Joe worked on the farm from 1933 to 1940 and also found employment as a mechanic. He worked for one year as a Feed Sales and Inspector with the Alberta Feed Co-op in Edmonton. To further his interest in mechanics, Joe enrolled in a six-month Diesel & Air Engine Mechanic correspondence course.
Joe enrolled in a 30-day training course with the Non-Permanent Active Militia in Grande Prairie on November 20, 1940 (Regimental # M562590). On October 22, 1941, Joe enlisted with the Royal Canadian Air Force (Regimental # J28581) as an air-engine mechanic trainee. On June 17, 1944, Joe married Amy Julia Albertson in Kingston, Ontario after receiving permission to do so. Joe underwent training in Edmonton, Dafoe (Saskatchewan), Saskatoon, Prince Albert, Trenton (Ontario), CFD Mountain View (Ontario), CFS St. Hubert (Quebec) and Rockcliff Air Station (Ontario). He served one year as AEM (Leading Aircraftman highest grouping), commissioned as pilot for 2.5 years, acted as Assistant Flight Commander for 5 months and Flight Commander for 6 months. Joe was a distinguished Flying Officer in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan where he trained pilots in preparation to fly during combat. Flying Officer Joseph Antoine Clesse served in Canada and received the Pilots Flying Badge, General Service Medal and the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal. He was discharged on October 19, 1945 and listed his address as Kingston, Ontario.
Joe and Julia had six children; Susan, Virginia, Anne-Marie, Stephen, Julie and Nanci. They lived in various locations in Ontario but eventually settled in Scarborough and lastly, Mississauga. Joe’s civilian career began in sales; however, he eventually moved into retail furniture and design. He was the proprietor of “Anthony’s Home Furnishings”, in Scarborough and Mississauga until he retired in 1989. He was a talented woodworker, cabinet-maker and builder. Joe put his skills to good use building mantle clocks out of broken airplane propellers. Once retired, he became the superintendent/manager of the condominium building in which he and Amy lived.
Joe passed away on March 3, 1999 in Mississauga. Amy passed away on February 29, 2000 also in Mississauga. Both were cremated with their ashes being scattered at locations that held special meaning for their family.
Note: Joe applied several times to be transferred overseas; however, his requests were denied as his service was needed to train pilots in Canada. As such, he never referred to himself as a “veteran” and seldom spoke of his years in the Air Force.
Contributed by Wanda Zenner
Smoky River to Grande Prairie
Susan Bithrey – daughter
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