Loyd Brunton was born on farm southern Alberta, Canada. His parents, Burt and Lily Brunton, were homesteaders who moved there from Peck, Idaho in 1908 to farm land offered by the Canadian government for those willing to settle the prairie area. Their farm was situated fifteen miles east of Milk River.
At two years old, Loyd had a ruptured appendix and spent a month in the hospital, twenty-one miles from the farm. His mother visited every day in a horse and buggy. This was 1916, and she forded the Milk River each way.
The Brunton clan was a big, blended family- twelve children in all. Loyd had five brothers, a sister, and five half-sisters. Two of his half-sisters died in the influenza epidemic of 1918.
Loyd took his first five years of grade school at a rural school in Alberta, about a mile’s walk from the farm, summer and winter. Grandpa didn’t write that this was uphill both ways in the snow, because he was never one to complain about such things, but it was after all in Alberta during the lead-up to the first world war, and I imagine it was that way.
By the time he was eleven years old, he had learned how to shoot a .22, drive a model T, ride riding horses (his words), and scrap with some of the other school kids (also his words, and I imagine said with some pride). The Model T was his father’s first car and on the day he brought it home all of them were offered our first ride in an automobile.
Grandpa writes that “by 1925 my folks had decided prosperity was something they saw little of and it was decided that our mother and five of us kids would go down to a town in Montana called Big Sandy where my oldest brother had been working. He soon left and joined the Marines. In 1926 my other brother and father came down from Canada.”
The time in Big Sandy would be short-lived, and prosperity would continue to elude the Bruntons. While working in the fields, his brother Clayton, recently arrived from Canada, contracted pneumonia and died.
In 1929 Lily and the kids moved to Spokane where Loyd attended North Central High School. His sister Anita died tragically the following year.
1931 brought more difficulty for Lily “to keep food on the table.” Loyd contracted another infection- this time it was mastoiditis. But, in 1933 Loyd graduated from North Central, and he would remain in and around Spokane for the rest of his life, barring those times when military service took him elsewhere.
He worked as a grocery clerk for for a dollar a day after high school. He attended business classes for a year, and found work as an office clerk. Grandpa wrote once that they could not afford college, but he was not inclined to go anyhow. During these years after high school, during the height of the Great Depression, romance budded.
In 1938, Loyd L Brunton and Maxine Juanita Johnston were married and began their life together. In grandpa’s words, he “married a wonderful gal in 1938.” The same year, Loyd began as a Supply Clerk in the 116th Observation Squad Washington National Guard. In 1939, they made a honeymoon trip to San Francisco, where they attended the 1939 World’s Fair.
Loyd’s unit was activated in 1940, and he was released February of 1946. In 1941 he joined the regular Air Force as a Master Sgt., and was promoted to warrant officer in 1942.
The war would take Loyd to Salinas, California, Oklahoma City, and then to the European theater. In 1944, the 116th Observation Squad was deactivated and Loyd was assigned to the 33rd Photo Reconnaissance. He arrived in Europe in April 1944.
He was then stationed in the Shalgrove RAF Base, 10 miles South Oxford, where the mission was to take aerial photos of Utah and Omaha beach areas. They also flew missions to assess damage caused by prior bombing missions. In August 1944 he operated from an airstrip in Normandy as part of the 9th AF, then moving on to Versailles, Brussels, Venly, Brunswick.
Loyd’s brother Foster was in a Japanese prison from 1941 until the end of the war, followed by weeks in the hospital. In 1946, Loyd returned to Spokane and the Air Guard.
Loyd and Maxine’s family expanded by one in 1950, when Aunt Miriam was born. Shortly after, in 1951, his squadron was called to active duty for 18 months and they were sent to England to work jointly with RAF. This was the first fighter squadron to fly across the Atlantic. Maxine and Miriam arrived about 3 months later and the three of them made a trip to the continent, visiting France, Belgium, and Switzerland.
They returned to Spokane in 1952. Loyd took a position training enlisted personnel, and the family grew again when Dad was born. The family bought a home in Spokane, where they lived until 1964, when they sold that home and moved to twelve acres in Milan, which grandpa described as being “south of Elk.” They joined the United Methodist Church, and Loyd served as a volunteer firefighter with the Milan Fire Department. He served on the boards of the community association, the Milan Cemetery, and the Milan Township.
Loyd retired from the Washington Air National Guard in 1970 after a total of 34 years military service. He attained the rank of chief Warrant Officer W4 but elected to retire as a Chief Master Sergeant, AF Reserve. He was a lifetime member of VFW, member of National Guard Association of WA, Air Guard Boosters Club, and Retired Enlisted Association.
That same year, the first of the grandchildren, Cory was born, and Maxine had open heart surgery. Maxine lost her sight completely in 1971 and Grandpa writes that the “life of both of us was considerably changed at that time.” Four more grandchildren would follow- Daniel, David, Douglas, and Mike. Eventually, there would also be eight great-grandchildren.
Loyd and Maxine continued to travel up and down the West coast to California, Oregon, Alaska, and around Washington. In 1989 moved to the Fairwood Retirement Village, where grandpa described everyone (staff and neighbors) to be “friendly and helpful.”
Grandpa wrote that in 1990, he lost his “most loved one very suddenly because of a stroke,” and that he missed her “tender love.” Grandpa continued to live at Fairwood until 2011, when at the age of 97, he moved in with Mom and Dad- that’s Paul and Sheila Brunton to you all, where he died peacefully in his sleep this past Wendesday night.
Grandpa wrote about the years after Grandma died as the worst period of his life, but then wrote a question, and an exhortation, which I offer in closing:
“What will tomorrow bring? That is a question all of us forever have, but life continues. Let us go ahead, for better or for worse.”