Funeral held for senior RCMP veteran in Iroquois, Ont.

A funeral service was held south of Ottawa on Thursday for a former RCMP officer who retired nearly five decades ago. Together with him, a unique part of RCMP history was also put to rest.

The small Roman Catholic Church of St. Cecilia in Iroquois, Ontario commemorated a major legacy after RCMP Sgt. George William (Bill) Fridgen died on May 11 at the age of 105.

“A hundred and five years, so many times around the sun, oh my god,” said Fridgen’s grandson, Phill Snel.

Refrigerator’s career with the RCMP took him through three counties from 1941 to 1974, but it was his badge number that made him something of a celebrity.

“He’s been confirmed to be the oldest living veteran until he died, but he also had a very old service number, 13967, starting with one,” Snel said.

His grandson noted that Fridgen would draw a crowd of RCMP officers on duty when he visited Parliament Hill, which is known as a ‘One’.

“Now they start with a six,” Snel said. “So to give you some perspective, over 50,000 police officers have gone through the RCMP since that time. It’s an incredible number.”

“An email was sent when Dad turned 100,” Fridgen’s daughter Lynda Turner recalled. “This RCMP agent wrote, ‘I have the exact same number as you, but I have a 5 instead of a one.'”

Bill Fridgen passed away on May 11 at the age of 105. Fridgen served as an RCMP officer from 1941 to 1974. (Courtesy/Phill Snel)

His service on Thursday was celebrated by an RCMP honor guard with full flags and decorations. Senator and former RCMP commissioner Bev Busson also read a memorial of memoriam in the Senate on May 19.

“(He had) such a rich life, a great man, mainstay of the community,” said Snel. “He has done so much for the community here, as well as through his service with the RCMP and his brief career with the Royal Canadian Navy.”

Refrigerators moved to the Iroquois area in the mid-1970s and settled on a farm, still mobile and cheerful until he died.

He even bought a new car at the age of 96, much to the surprise of the seller at the dealership.

“They said, ‘How long do you want to rent, sir?’ because he was quite old, and he said give me a four-year lease and I’ll get to 100,” Snel smiled.

“So when he was 100 he had to go back to buy off his lease and on his 100th birthday he even drove me to his own birthday party,” he added.

“He drove until he was 100 years old,” his daughter said, but had to surrender his driver’s license shortly after.

“He was aware that he suddenly forgot, ‘Where am I? Why am I here?'” Turner said. “I mean, people my age have that feeling sometimes!”

Brill Fridgen drives his grandson to his 100th birthday party in his car. (Courtesy of Phil Snel)

The family says they will continue to share the many stories he loved to tell, such as the time he and his partner picked up some moonshiners in PEI.

“His partner nervously crawled out of the grass with his gun and said, ‘Okay, jigs, the boys are up!'” Snel laughed. “He was so excited he got it mixed up!”

Snel noted that he also met with royalty and world leaders, including US President Dwight Eisenhower on what turned out to be a secret assignment.

“(It was) to guard the president at night while on a fishing trip, in plain clothes, unarmed, in a lake in Quebec,” Snel said. “Grandpa could never have found any written evidence that that had happened, so if anyone has grandparents who remember the US President and an RCMP floatplane from that fishing trip, get in touch, that would be great to hear!”

Turner says he will be remembered as a wonderful family man and a mainstay of the community.

“After he passed away, one of the nurses at St. Lawrence Lodge said, ‘Was he a good parent?’ and I certainly said yes, he was a good parent,” his daughter said.

“It’s sad, but we’re here to celebrate such longevity,” Snel added. “Blessed with such an amazing life in good health, amazing family and truly, it’s an amazing celebration of life today.”

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