War vet bestowed highest French honour

Ena Burnett, Reverend Errol Sadler of St Margarets Church, and Ian (Kirk) Kirkpatrick. Both Ms Burnett and Mr Kirkpatrick are WWII veterans. Mr Kirkpatrick has just been presented with the highest medal that France awards.

At 91, Fairy Knowe resident Ian (Kirk) Kirkpatrick has just been awarded the Legion of Honour medal, the highest acknowledgement given by France, to any human.

The hand-over took place on Wednesday November 9, at the French Embassy in Cape Town.

Mr Kirkpatrick was honoured for his service in World War II. He is a celebrated MOTH (the Memorable Order of Tin Hats) and his wife, Pam Kirkpatrick, described the event as being truly exceptional.

Mr Kirkpatrick survived being shot four times during his service, where he was in the thick of the war; watching enemies and fellow soldiers fall to the fire throughout the time he served.

The man he is today shows the same fortitude as the young soldier he was. Ms Kirkpatrick was looking for her husband last week to offer him a cup of tea, and exhausted her search inside the house. Eventually, to her fair astonishment, she discovered him on the roof.

“He can’t sit still for five minutes; at this age he has projects on the go all over the house, which he does by himself. He’s mixing cement to extend this area, he’s creating more space on the veranda, he is fixing the roof.”

Ms Kirkpatrick says her husband is as lithe and fit today as he was in his younger years. “Can you believe that he doesn’t take a single prescription drug? Only this year he has started taking a single supplement. He’s remarkable,” she says.

The couple will celebrate their fourth wedding anniversary this month. They met on a dancefloor, and Ms Kirkpatrick said that her husband is a marvellous ballroom dancer, as well as a keen traveller.

“Would you believe, the first time we met we had the last dance of the night. The next time we met, he escorted me to his table and declared that I would not be dancing with anyone else that night: three weeks later, we were married,” she laughs.

Ms Kirkpatrick says they have experienced many similar things in the course of their lives, both were previously married with three children, both lost their previous spouses to long illness, both have lost an adult child.

Both are great lovers of music and animals, both love spiders, both still love to dance, and both are practising Christians.

Even today, they both keep fit and busy. Ms Kirkpatrick does all her own housework, including mopping floors, and gardening: planting and weeding.

Their world now is vibrant, busy and filled with world travel, dance and laughter. She says that while her husband is very modest about it, all their friends and family and social club friends have been asking him to wear his medal at their next events.

“It is very special, people have been lovely about it. I am so pleased he has received such lovely acknowledgement through this medal,” she said.