Reg.#20857, Cst. R. W. Kitchen
Vet of the Month: December, 2009
Our Vet of the Month story has been contributed by Joan Woodward the fiancée of Cst. R.W. Kitchen.
Over the years on a frequent basis, I arduously searched the web for the name "RCMP, Cst. Robert ‘Bob’ Wentworth Kitchen" but to no avail.
Recently, I was surprised when I found his name. My heart nearly stopped! Bob’s name was noted and he was remembered on an RCMP Vets website thanks to the efforts of ‘Buffalo Joe’ Healy and many others of
the RCMP Vets. I contacted ‘Buffalo Joe’ to thank him. In turn, Joe invited me to write a story about my memories of Reg.#20857, Cst. R. W. Kitchen.
This is my story. These are my memories.
Bob was an active member of the Force for only about a year or so after finishing training. I don't know of any heroic or memorable incidents or notable achievements about him, other than his graduation, during his brief service but I knew him.
I knew Bob for two years. We fell in love at first sight. He was a big, jolly, fun-loving, generous, and dedicated guy and his impact on my life was profound. I learned through his example. Bob was willing
and capable of putting someone else's well being before his own.
Cst. Kitchen and I met in the autumn of 1959 at a dance in the Nurses' Residence of the Ottawa Civic Hospital. We had both just arrived in Ottawa for training. I think Bob was born in August (4th?), 1939 and he was accepted by the RCMP in 1959 in his hometown of Fredericton, NB after graduating from high school. He wanted to serve in the Force and, like others who continue to do so, was willing to put his life on the line. His recruit training was at ‘N’ Division in Ottawa.
On the night of the dance, I and the other nurses eagerly watched
the young men in sport coats, shirts with ties, pressed pants and
polished shoes, enter the dimly lit ballroom. These were the recruits
from ‘N’ Division who had been invited to the Nurses' dance.
This big man, about 6 inches taller than me, came up and glancing
down and looking somewhere past my left ear said, "I suppose you'd
like to dance?" "Not with you," I replied put off by his seeming arrogance. We
locked eyes. After an eternity, he glanced down, blushed and said,
"I'm sorry. That didn't come out right...I'm kind of nervous..."
That was it! We danced the night away. We wanted to dance forever.
A highlight of our social life was the last formal dance we went to
at ‘N’ Division. (I think it was New Year's Eve 1961). The room was
resplendent with handsome men in their formal Red Serge tunics and
women in formal gowns. I felt really grown up and sophisticated as I
was introduced down the receiving line of the Commanding Officers and
their wives. Once again we danced the night away. One of the last
dances was a conga line to the "Hawaiian War Dance" and, as always,
the very last waltz was "Good Night Ladies". Walking in the snow after
the dance Bob asked me to be his wife on the day when he would have
been in the Force long enough to qualify to marry.
After his recruit training, Bob and I contrived to see each other as
often as possible which was tricky as we often worked different shifts.
He was posted to at ‘A’ Division and assigned to guard duty on "The Hill".
A couple of my friends, other young nurses, also had met their guys too.
Sometimes extreme measures were called for in order to catch a glimpse
of our loved one, even at work, standing guard on Parliament Hill.
We'd go to The Hill just to look. It was easier when the weather was
warm, but on cold winter nights, from a distance, the RCMP were
silhouettes, massive silhouettes encased in shaggy buffalo coats,
standing in the archway at the front entrance to Parliament.
But, even at a distance, I could recognize my guy. Up close, frost
rimmed eyes and a red nose were framed by the ice rimmed buffalo coat
collar and the beaver hat. We stood in the cold in the light of the
portico exchanging glances through clouds of steamy breath
(more accurately we girls looked and the men tried to maintain their
posture, without talking or laughing). Did he and his mates assigned to
the Hill like standing in the cold? No. Did toes and noses get cold? Yes.
Why did they do it? Duty.
In the spring of 1961 Bob left Ottawa to take up his post at the
Detachment in Truro. In the late summer of 1961, Bob sent me an Air
Canada ticket so that I could join him and meet his family.
In Fredericton he proudly introduced me to family and friends. He
also gave me a family heirloom engagement ring. Next, the round of
parties, dinners, and dancing clearly showed that Bob was known by
many and obviously held in high regard. I took the train back to Ottawa,
and waited for him to arrive on his leave in a couple of weeks. Bob
went back to his Detachment in Truro.
Bob was dedicated to his career as a Mountie. He loved it. It made
him happy and he was one of the happiest people I've ever met. However,
his career didn't get a chance to unfold.
At 8:30am, September 20, 1961, Bob died in the Victoria Public
Hospital in Fredericton, NB. The cause of death was from injuries
suffered when the car in which he was a passenger, driven by a friend
whom he'd known since childhood, missed a turn and crashed on the
Trans Canada Highway near Fredericton around 2 am on the day he was to
leave to come to me. He had just turned 22 years of age.RIP
The inquest report writes that: “RCMP Cst. R. Douglas Rushton,
arrived on the scene around 2:25am and had a conversation with a man who,
told me his name was Robert Kitchen, his Regimental number being
#20857 and he was stationed with the R.C.M.P. at Truro in Nova Scotia.
Further that he had arrived home on leave just that day and he wanted
me to notify his parents that he was involved in an accident. I
briefly went to each of the other two individuals lying on the ground
and was of an opinion that Kitchen was the least hurt. He seemed to
be rational in his conversation and told me his name and so forth. I
noticed a few minor cuts around his face but other than that he
appeared to be in fairly good shape. He did complain of a pain in his
I can only imagine what Cst. Rushford felt a few hours later when he
was called to the hospital to identify the body of his fellow
Mountie, to be present at the autopsy and to testify later at the
Cst. Rushford was doing his duty and, whether he knew Bob or not,
being in the same room as death isn't easy. Duty is doing what we
have committed to do no matter what our feelings.
Cst. Robert W. Kitchen was carried to his grave in the Fredericton
Rural Extension Cemetery, Section 4, by Constables Fred Blair, George
Singfield, J.C. Munro, N. Fleeton, T. Kozij, and G. G. Patterson.
Nearly 50 years later the gravestone was found by another RCMP
Officer and the name and dates were posted on Buffalo Joe’s RCMP Graves
Website where I found it. That matters: I had worried over the years
that Bob would be forgotten. There seemed to be no one to care after
his mother, father, and brother died and I knew of no other relatives.
Bob is remembered. That matters.
When Bob asked me to marry him he said that just as he was dedicated
to doing his duty as an RCMP officer, in whatever conditions arose,
he would, as a husband dedicate himself to my happiness.
The memory of that expressed understanding of the right to feel safe,
secure, and happy stayed with me and surfaced often in the years
after he died giving me the strength to do what needed to be done and
to have a couple of successful and satisfying careers. The memory of
his lived expression of duty and the desire to serve stayed. His
influence has been felt by and helped many he would never know.
"May all beings be happy, may they be peaceful, may they be free."