M.A. (Army) MacCrimmon

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Army MacCrimmon, ALS
Known for ALSA President (1970), Professional Recognition Award (1987), Honorary Life Membership (2001)

Born in Williamstown, Ontario on July 7, 1922, George Armstrong MacCrimmon soon lost his older brother Morrison to scarlet fever. His grief-stricken parents shortly changed his name to Morrision Armstrong MacCrimmon, or just “Army” as we knew him.

Army grew up with a strong respect for veterans, especially those of the First World War and, like a lot of young men of the day, tried to enlist underage for WW II. The recruiting officer in Montreal sent him home to “grow up a bit.” Army, having no money, rode a boxcar back home to Williamstown. He finally enlisted on April 21, 1941 at the age of 18 years. He trained at Queen’s University in Kingston, but technical radar courses were not his strong suit and his vision would not allow him to become a pilot in the RCAF.

He eventually joined the Second Survey Regiment of the Royal Canadian Artillery. These soldiers were responsible for spotting enemy artillery fire, calculating its position by triangulation, and relaying that position to the Allied field guns. As you can imagine, it was a dangerous place and Army recalled losing over 30 men from his regiment and often wondered how he came through those years unscathed. Army landed on Juno Beach soon after the invasion. The German forces had already been pushed back and the Allied forces were advancing through France. Army was not shielded from the horrors of war though, as he saw the carnage of Falaise Gap and, as most veterans, was haunted by the images he saw for the remainder of his life. The majority of his action was in Belgium and Holland, being a “flash spotter” and a gunnery surveyor. He was very proud to have been part of the liberating forces and later, in 2005, going back to Europe with his son John and visiting places that brought back many memories.

At the end of the War, Army took a 2½ month Dominion Land Survey course which laid the groundwork for his future career. In 1946, Army worked for Ontario Hydro doing a flood plain survey on the Mattawa River but, much to our benefit, Army’s father lured him out West in 1947 to work for the Mannix Company on the Hart Highway construction in British Columbia.

When that project finished, he hired on with Peter Baptie, ALS in 1948, performing road and townsite surveys, one of which was the survey of the townsite for Elkwater in Alberta’s Cypress Hills. Peter Baptie’s plan remains unregistered today but is the basis for another’s registered plan of the town.

In 1951, Army hired on with R. McCutcheon Ltd. in Calgary and began his survey career in earnest while performing all types of urban and oilfield surveys, taking time off only when absolutely necessary.

One such time was on May 10th, 1952 when he married a young lady named Constance Bell, from Winnipeg, Manitoba. Shortly after getting married, Army signed his articles to Bob McCutcheon, ALS and over the next few years, working, studying, and raising a family filled their lives with long days, happiness, children, and stress. Connie recalled to me that one day she came home from work, opened the door just in time to see a survey text go flying across the room. In 1955, a daughter Catherine was born, in 1956, another daughter Jean was born, and then in 1959 a son Donald John.

In his “spare” time Army studied and wrote all of his intermediate and final exams and received his commission as an Alberta Land Surveyor on June 13, 1961. He continued to work with Bob McCutcheon Ltd. until 1965 when Army, Bill Wolley-Dod, Dick Anderson, Art Knudson and Harold Dewitt bought R. McCutcheon Ltd. and formed Wolley-Dod and MacCrimmon Surveys Ltd., a firm which continued to operate until 1990 when it was sold to another Alberta survey company.

Army applied for and was granted retired membership on March 3rd, 1992. While being an active land surveyor, Army articled Art Knudson (1966-1976), Dave Williams (1972-1973), and Ron Grattan (1974-1987) who all received their own commissions as Alberta Land Surveyors.

Shortly after Army was commissioned in 1961, he began playing an active role with the Alberta Land Surveyors’ Association through service first at the committee level and then as Association President in 1970. Army gave no less than 36 committee years to the profession between 1964 and 1999, seven years after his retirement. A dedicated career that few have matched.

In 1987, the profession recognized Army’s contribution by awarding him the Professional Recognition Award and again by awarding him Honorary Life membership in March 2001.

There was the career and then there was the man.

The career was nothing short of distinguished—he was an active Alberta Land Surveyor for more than 30 years, he articled three other Alberta Land Surveyors, he gave extensive committee service to the profession and became its president, all while operating a very successful and well respected business, not to mention raising a family. Few would attempt what Army achieved.

Then there was the man—Army would brush aside such talk and tell you that he did nothing more than any professional should do, but Army knew the real meaning of professionalism. He lived words like “ethics,” “fairness,” “concern for others,” and “humility.” Through his actions, he attracted respect from others and it is my honour to have known and worked with him. He was a gentleman, he was a professional, he was honourable, and he will be missed by all who knew him for who he was.

Army passed away May 1, 2011.

Written by Dave McWilliam, ALS (Hon. Life) with contribution in no small part from Army’s family.