World War II veteran, Major Twistleton St. Rose Bertrand, a Dominican who exemplified the very best traditions of honest and selfless service, died peacefully at his home surrounded by family on Sunday, December 8, 2019, in Ontario, Canada. Fittingly, the popular and well-loved 95- year- old ex-serviceman, known affectionately as “Major” or “Uncle Twist,” fought a valiant and courageous battle in his final days, not only outliving the time his attending physician gave for his final exit but winking and mouthing kisses to his beloved “Dolly,” his loving and devoted wife of over sixty-six years.
Born in 1924, Major Bertrand left Dominica in June 1944, along with friends Gerald Benjamin, Ted Dalrymple, Fred James, Clifford Severin, Wendell Christian and the late Chief Magistrate Glenworth Emanuel on a schooner to join the British Forces, Caribbean Battalion, either in St. Lucia or Trinidad. The war ended before the Major saw active service and upon his return to Dominica in 1946, was recruited to work in the colonial civil service first at HMS Customs and later at the Treasury. He enlisted in the Dominica Defence Force in the 1960s and in the 1970s, attained the rank of Major. He also served as the Aide-De-Camp to then-Governor Sir Cools Lartigue before giving everything up in 1976 to migrate to Canada to give his children better opportunities to succeed in life.
Within a year of arriving in Ontario, Canada, the Major never lost a stride in continuing his military career. In March 1978, he joined a quasi-military organization called the Canadian Corps of Commissionaires where he cut a fine figure dressed in his well-pressed military tunics, adorned with his military medals proudly displayed on his chest. In a 1998 book entitled “The Commissionaires: An Organization with a Proud history” John Gardam wrote that the Major “appears to hold the record for the greatest number of promotions in the shortest period of time.” Within a two-year period, he was first promoted to Corporal, then Assistant Training Officer, then Sargeant and then to Regional Sargeant Major. He also had the distinction of becoming the first Inspector in the Corps of Commissionaires’ Toronto Division. In October 1985, he was appointed Aide-de-Camp to Ontario’s Lieutenant Governor and as Captain in the Corps.
The Major also enlisted in the Canadian Armed Forces Reserves where he attained the rank of captain. He inspired many young Canadians to join the Canadian Armed Forces and frequently participated in military parades in Toronto.
Major Bertrand’s devotion to duty, his easy-going personality and charisma caught the eye of his superior officers and in 1986, he became the first Commissionaire in Canada to be appointed an Aide-de-Camp to a Lieutenant Governor, a position in which he served for twenty-eight years. In that capacity, he served five Lieutenant Governors in Ontario all of whom recognized his exceptional service to Canada. Lieutenant Governor Lincoln Alexander, who, at the instigation of the Major, visited Dominica in the late 1980s, bestowed the Distinguished Service Award on him. Alexander’s successor, Hal Jackman, presented him with the Governor General Commemorative Medal of Canada. Hilary Weston, the first female Lieutenant Governor General of Canada, presented him with the Vice Regal Commendation while James Bartleman made him a proud recipient of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Award. In 2012, Lieutenant Governor David Onley presented the Major with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Award for his service to Canada.
This extraordinary man possessed a warm and engaging personality which shone brightly in every setting or gathering. He possessed a staple of jokes and anecdotes gleaned from his interactions and encounters with dignitaries he had met and from his happy childhood in Portsmouth.
One of his favourite jokes never failed to draw great laughter. It related to a Frenchman who attended a cocktail party in Portsmouth during the war. Also present were two beautiful sisters who commanded the attention of every male in the room. When asked if he wanted “dessers” or dessert, the Frenchman recoiled in horror and amidst a barrage of “Non, non, non,” from him, proclaimed that he was happily married, and had no romantic interest in the “deux soeurs”.
The Major also delighted in interacting with his many grandchildren and great grandchildren teaching them to salute and march to his own drum. Well past his retirement, he took great pride in attending military parades and functions and on many occasions, invited family members to attend as well.
Major Bertrand has gone but his fine example lives on. The legacy of this great Dominican will not be wasted, to paraphrase the poet Thomas Gray, on the desert air but will bloom a thousand times in the hearts and minds of his many admirers. The brilliance of this “gem of purest ray serene,” will continue to light the path of those fortunate enough to have known him.
Major, we salute you for your life of unstinting service and sacrifice. We salute you for being a fine ambassador for your home and adopted countries. We salute you for burnishing the image and reputation of Dominica and for paving the path of success for many.
As the sight of your smartly dressed figure marches into view, the pearly gates of the celestial kingdom will swing open to allow the Heavenly Father to shout, “Welcome home Twist!” As he does, those left behind will murmur the words of Omar Khayyam: “Ah Love. Wish you and I with Fate conspire/ To change this sorry scheme of things entire.”
Major Bertrand leaves to mourn his loving wife Yolanda, children Trevor (Elsie), Garvin (JaneKowatch), Kathy (Irving Andre) and Terry (Lilia George); grandchildren Charlene (Richard Roye), Tammy, Dwayne, Kira (MolhamBabouli), Kylee Bertrand, Candice Aceti, Melissa and Bianca Andre, Brianne Lay (Chad), Anthony(NicoleHolness), Shomari, Khalfari, Nadege (Joe Rossignol), Natti, Tahli, and Talib Bertrand, great grandchildren Jayden and Kalan Roye, Kitana Bertrand, Carter Aceti and Brielle. He is survived by sisters, Mornlight Phillip, Olive Butler, Juliette and Joan Bertrand, brothers Milton, Fitzroy, Ronald and Phillip Bertrand, and all nieces, nephews and godchildren.