James – Jim – Thomas Beierl
While James Thomas Beierl was born in 1924 in York Township near Bloor and Jane, his father was born and raised in Markham at the home currently known as ‘11 Joseph’.
Over the years, Jim remained linked to community through relatives. He attended Runnymede High School and later transferred to Western Tech to prepare himself for engineering.
In 1942, in his final year of high school, he opted to work on a farm. At this time students could choose to work on a farm for the summer holiday and still obtain their diploma. Mr. Beierl came to Markham to work at ‘The Robinson Farm’. This was his uncle’s farm and it was located on Hwy 48 across from the Markham Train Station.
During his time on the Robinson Farm, through a friend, he met her cousin Eileen Guscott. Eileen quickly became the object of Jim’s attention. While only 18, he had met the woman he would eventually marry.
That same year, Jim joined the Royal Canadian Air Force. He and Eileen kept in contact through letters and visits. He trained to be a pilot under the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. Most of his training took place in Saskatchewan, where he received both his Wings and Commission in early 1944.
Jim graduated near the top of his class with the rank of Pilot Officer. He was also selected to take part in a highly secret and dangerous mission – the delivery of new cargo and bomber planes to Africa and England.
In 1944, planes were less fuel efficient than today’s so several re-fuelling stops were needed. On the southern route to Africa one of the re-fuelling stops was a small island in the middle of the ocean. The plane would have just enough fuel to make it to the island. In one instance the fuel ran out just after Mr. Beierl had landed.
The northern route involved a re-fuelling stop at the end of long fiord with tall walls of ice on either side. Bad weather could ground pilots for weeks at a time with no way to get news to loved ones that they were safe.
During these missions Jim could not maintain contact with Eileen or his family. Weeks would go by and they would have no idea where he was or if he was safe.
Getting back to North America was also an adventure. One route home was on the QE.
There is not enough time to tell the many tales that Jim Beierl has about the missions that he was on. We are lucky to have him with us here today.
Late in the war, in 1945, Jim was selected to fly a new type of plane that was going to be used to deliver Lord Mountbatten and other high ranking officials between Australia and Ceylon. However, during the trip to England, the pilots discovered many mechanical failings that compromised the safety of the plane. When two of the five in the squadron went down, the plan was scrapped.
Before he could be re-assigned the war was over. Jim returned to Toronto in late 1945 and enrolled at the University of Toronto. Upon graduation in mechanical engineering, Jim entered a successful working career.
In 1946, Jim married Eileen. They have two wonderful children who have been a source of pride and much happiness. Their daughter Judith lives in Barrie with her husband Gary, their son Tom lives in Huntsville with his wife Danielle. The Beierls have two grandchildren, Shondra who was recently married to Chris Peters, and Justin who is currently in Australia.
Jim and Eileen moved to Markham in the 1980s. They have been tireless volunteers with the Historical Society and Markham Museum, and are currently active members of the Swan Lake community. They have left a legacy at the Museum. Jim built and designed the Wee Emporium, currently being used as a gate house at the southern entrance to the Museum. He also designed the pavilion which is used extensively at the Museum for special events, museum programs, private parties and weddings. Jim also designed the sundial at the front of the Museum which was a millennium project of the Markham Historical Society.
On November 22nd Jim and Eileen Beierl will celebrate their 59th wedding anniversary.
All the people who know Jim regard him as a true gentleman and Eileen as a true lady. They are a tremendous asset to the community and to Canada.
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