Walt Burchnall was a leap year baby (he would say he’s only 24). He was a well loved, accomplished son of Ponoka and truly a fine citizen; one of the last of the generation of the Depression and WW2. Walt was born and grew up near Menaik Road on a humble farm, with siblings Margaret and Marjorie, Edward and Arthur. As a teen, he scored a good job at the pharmacy and who knows what might have been if he hadn’t decided being a pilot in WW2 was something he wanted to do. He joined the RCAF at 19, did well at pilot training and was shipped off to D-Day. They had no place to put his squadron in Britain, so they were shipped to Burma instead to a primitive airstrip in the jungle where they flew unarmed transport planes in the face of Japanese fighter planes, anti-aircraft fire, and towering monsoon thunderheads. Walt survived though some of his comrades did not.
After the war, Walt went back to farming, got married to Magdalena Abt and they had their first child, Robert Walter. Walt rejoined the RCAF and was a flight lieutenant, then a captain for many years. He routinely flew almost everywhere on earth, circling the globe on two occasions, in opposite directions. He had a UFO encounter flying over Alberta in 1996. He retired in 1969, then briefly sold mutual funds, owned and operated a pool hall, and then became head of claims for AMA North, Alberta. Eventually they moved back to Ponoka. Walt was a member at the Royal Canadian Legion Branch #66 where he held many positions on the executive in excess of 46 years. He also volunteered at the Ponoka Drop-In Centre.
After Maggie passed in 2008, Walt found love again with Emma Wilson to whom he was devoted to the end.
Although Walt was very fit and active well into his 90's, an almost fatal bout of pneumonia several years ago undermined his health, so he took residence at Northcott Care Centre, where is finally ran out of steam in the early morning of February 13, 2021. He was greatly sustained by his friends, especially Dorothy Houghton, Donna Wilson, and Julia Carter.
Walt was predeceased by his parents Frank and Janet, wife Magdalena, Emma Wilson and sisters Margaret and Marjorie; and his brother-in-law Ed Abt.
Walter is survived by his children Bob (Helen), Brian, Keith (Debbie) and Christine (Terrence); his brothers Edward and Arthur; his grandchildren Aaron, Haylyn, Ethan, and Nicholas; nieces and nephew Colleen, Carol, Florrie, Lynn, Wayne Abt, Michael and Laurie Caminiti; his step-daughters Donna Wilson and Julia Carter; many cousins and long time friend Dorothy Houghton, Max and Hunter.
Due to the current restrictions on public gatherings, a private family Funeral Service will be held on Saturday, February 20, 2021 at 2:00 pm at the Ponoka Funeral Home. A live-stream broadcast will be available at service time and the recording of the service will remain on this page for 90 days. The viewer is located at the bottom of this page.
Memorial donations in Walt’s name are gratefully accepted to the
Royal Canadian Legion Branch #66.
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