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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

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.


Reg20857Kitchen




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.rcmp crestRIP



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

left side."



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

inquest.



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."









'Maintain Our Memories'







2 comments:

  1. Dear Buffalo Joe,

    My father was the R. Douglas Rushton that Joan Woodward refers to in her memories of Cst. Bob Kitchen. I just wanted to share this with her and to thank her for the way she described how Dad must have felt dealing with the events of that evening. It kind of made him "alive" for me again.

    Thanks Joan.

    -Susan Rushton

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hello Joan;
    I would like to reiterate my sister's thanks.
    We also want to ensure our condolences to you and any of Cst.Kitchen's family and friends for the loss.
    Respectively Yours,
    Cst. Mark Rushton Reg. #49335

    ReplyDelete

Dear Friends,

Thank you for your note. Please be assured that I will reply, but some e-mails require a little more research and time or reflection. If your comment hinges on policy for graves, the e-mail may have to be referred to the RCMP for an authoritative response.

*You may check this blog for your e-mail as well as my reply.
Yours truly,

BuffaloJoe
Reg.#23685