June 16th, 2024

Local police veteran celebrates 99th birthday


By Cal Braid - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on March 14, 2023.

Herald photo by Cal Braid Glen Michelson got a Lethbridge Police cap and enjoyed his 99th birthday breakfast with other active and retired officers. He was flanked by his longtime friend and colleague, Bill Plomp, at left, and great-nephew Denton Michelson, at right.

A local police veteran is celebrating a birthday that most folks won’t come within striking distance of: 99.

Glen Michelson’s birthday is March 12, and he’s part of an exclusive – if unofficial – club, whose members can be identified by their sheer longevity.

One year shy of being an centenarian, he was celebrated on Thursday by other acting and retired police service members at the Nord-Bridge Senior’s Centre.

The birthday breakfast doubled as police veteran’s meeting, and he addressed his colleagues after the meal by saying, “I’m going for a hundred now.” A voice at the table piped up, “Good man! Break the zeros!” Another chimed in, “Maybe Glen can tell us about the dog sled days…way before they had cars.”

“When I was in the mounted police, I was taken to Cambridge Bay, NWT,” Michelson said. “The plane landed on the ice. (They) sent a dog team and sleigh to pick me up.”

He told the group a story about being stationed in Prince Edward Island and playing basketball while he was there. He made a connection with a basketball referee who was also a flight lieutenant from Summerside, PEI.

When Michelson was relocated to the NWT, he said one day a Lancaster aircraft came in on a test flight with extra gas tanks in the bomb bays.

“We had to meet every plane that landed there,” he said. “The flying officer was Gillespie (the referee) from the Summerside Air Force station. He said ‘Glen, what are you doing here?’ Anyway, he was on a flight to the North Pole, and I said, ‘Gillespie, can I ride with you up there and back?'”

Gillespie said yes, and Michelson was fitted with a warm flight gear. As part of a crew of seven, he rode in the nose of the plane and could view everything below with the plane flying at about 5,000 feet. It was daylight around the clock at that time of year.

“We were in the air six hours to the north pole, and then the old plane just turned around to come back six hours. I could see everything, and all I could see was snow and ice. No sign of any polar bear or caribou or anything. There wasn’t a sign of life anywhere. It was just a solid mat of ice; you could see big cracks in it. It was just a flight test for the aircraft. That was one of the greatest things of my life.” The year was in 1949.

Michelson signed up and was sworn in with the RCMP in his early 20s. He was sent by train to Regina for three months and then on to Ottawa for another training stint. While in Ottawa, he said, “I broke a horse called Rebel. It threw me off lots of times. The staff sergeant and the inspector were watching and they’d see me get bucked off and they’d get a hell of a kick out of that. When I first when into training, the horse wouldn’t even let me into the stall. It would kick, but I’d feed it a little bit of oats and pet it, and it got so that horse wouldn’t go with anybody else but me.”

Michelson returned to Lethbridge and his good friend and veteran colleague, Bill Plomp, put the 1950s RCMP headquarters into context.

“The Civic Centre (on 6 Ave. South) was the RCMP barracks and their compound,” he said.

A few horses were kept on site, and the compound consisted of old wooden houses and offices with a track around it. Michelson spent three-and-a-half years with the RCMP before joining the Lethbridge police in 1951.

He stayed on with the force until he retired in 1984. During his career years, Michelson got married to and had a son. Soon after his wife BettyJo had their son, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

“We went all over trying to get a cure and do something about it,” he said. She’s still alive and also in her 90s. His son Barry worked as a tile setter and in the oil patch, but passed away in 2009. Michelson said, “It was a hell of a blow to our family. We only had the one child. He was a real good son.”

Throughout his life, Michelson has maintained an interest in the outdoors. He’s a lifetime member of the Lethbridge Fish and Game Association, and a member of Ducks Unlimited since its inception in 1939. Near his hometown of Stirling, Michelson’s Marsh wetland is named after his family.

When it’s calculated that he’s been retired for longer than his career in law enforcement lasted, his friend Plomp cracked, “he’s cheating the pension plan.”

Plomp considered Michelson a mentor when they worked together, and when Michelson retired as police superintendent, Plomp took over as inspector.

“He was the only one that I would recommend to take my position,” Michelson said. Their friendship has remained intact. Asked how his quality of life has been in recent years, he said “It’s been good.” Plomp added, “He got a heart pacemaker for his 97th birthday.”

Michelson said that during the operation, which he was awake for, he talked to the surgeon and discovered that the surgeon’s great-grandfather had been his schoolteacher in Stirling.

Ninety-nine is a impressive number. Two-digit birthdays don’t get any higher, and next year at this time he’ll hit three digits. That’s a lot of candles on the cake.

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pursuit diver

I remember both mentioned and both were great members of our police force and I remember a few others thar grew up in the ranks, back when policing was similar in some ways but much different.
I remember a incident in the old police station where a young and upcoming member Wayne J. was shot in the neck by a prisoner, putting him in a wheelchair and a shots fired on 6th avenue south by the Petro Can station as the prisoner was been chased after the escape and I believe Michelson was hit with one of those rounds exchanged. Thank you for your dedication to this city!
I hope you see 100 and enjoy it!