August 19, 1933 – December 28, 2022
In loving memory ~
It is with deep sadness that we announce the death of our father, Michael Lawrence Higgs.
He is survived by his daughters: Tracy Ford (Matthew), Melanie Higgs (Andreas), and Jessica Kelley (Michael), seven grandchildren and two great-granddaughters. He is predeceased by his brother, David Higgs and his first wife, Brenda Lloyd.
Michael was born in Rugby, England, the son of schoolteacher Thomas Higgs and Phyllis (Stephens) Higgs. At 11, Michael won a place as a Foundation Boarder at Queen Elizabeth’s Hospital school in Bristol, England, where he won many awards for his writing talent. To avoid playing rugby at school, Michael joined the Air Cadet Squadron, making his first solo glider flight at 14. During those few minutes of silent soaring, he found his calling. Aged 17, he received the traditional “King’s Shilling” and signed his papers to begin training with the Royal Air Force (RAF). At RAF base Digby, he flew Tiger Moths and undertook courses in “air experience,” learning how to avoid air sickness induced by aerobatics. Michael was selected for training in Canada, and it was during the 15-hour flight from London to Montreal in a Boeing MOAC Stratocruiser that he decided to make a career in long-haul passenger transport. Along with a cohort of flight cadets in Course 38 (Thirsty-Eight), Michael arrived at Claresholm, Alberta on April 1, 1952, the anniversary of the founding of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF).
For nine months, Michael trained on Harvards and forged lifelong relationships with some of the other cadets. Nicknamed “Count,” Michael was described in the course’s graduation magazine as “aristocratic in appearance, intellectual in outlook and dormant in energy.” After graduating, Michael returned to England to complete his Advanced Flying Schooling at Merryfield, Somerset, piloting the De Haviland Vampire jet fighter.
In 1953, following two years of national service, Michael returned to Vancouver, Canada to look for opportunities to fly. He joined the RCAF 442 Squadron, the source of many lasting friendships. When some members of the 442 Squadron created a social/investment club, Michael was nominated as President for Life (PFL) due to his amusing speeches and his encyclopedic recall of hundreds of air force drinking songs.
During his first months in Canada, Michael rekindled a romance with Brenda Lloyd, still living in Bristol. They were married on March 16, 1957. Soon followed their first daughter, Julia Tracy (1958), then Melanie Jane (1959) and Jessica Meredith (1962).
Michael was hired by Canadian Pacific Airlines in May 1956. At first, he piloted the DC 3 CF – CRY to service Distant Early Warning line camps along the Arctic coast. In the cockpit, Michael wrote poetry, his aircraft a “droning mote” hanging “like a silver minnow in a bowl/Whose ancient floor is fading to black.”
Michael’s career with Canadian Pacific Airlines flourished, moving to the left seat as reserve Captain on the DC-8 in 1970. Seven years later, he began flying the Boeing 747, becoming captain in March 1980. After CP Air sold the 747, Michael moved from his beloved “Empresses” to fly as captain on the DC-10, retiring in that position in 1991 with 22,000 hours in his logbook. All through retirement, he continued to travel the world, in his lifetime visiting 75 countries.
In 2016, Michael moved to Duncan, Vancouver Island. He lived there happily, surrounded by his daughters and their families, and passed away peacefully in their company.
Michael’s most defining characteristic was his love of words. He wrote volumes of personal and travel diaries and many hundreds of letters, filled with humour, fascinating trivia and poetic insight. All correspondence was faithfully catalogued, a testament to Michael’s regard for old friends and the preservation of all that was meaningful in his life.
Michael held a lifelong regard for the works of Arthur Conan Doyle, especially the stories of Sherlock Holmes, referred to as the Canon. He joined the Stormy Petrels Society in Vancouver, serving as secretary and publishing two volumes of Holmesian esoterica.
When not in the air, Michael indulged his passion for sailing, crewing with friends around the world, participating in the Swiftsure race, and cruising the Gulf Islands.
Michael was a loving, patient, and amazing father, who awakened his daughters’ curiosity about the world, taking us out of school and letting us ride in the cockpit on flights to foreign countries. He created a planetarium in our bedroom so we could sleep under the stars—and know their names. He taught us the value of checklists and to never let the gas tank go below one-quarter full. He built us telescopes, tree houses, and the world’s safest backyard swing, anchored in concrete.
Because of you Dad, we’ve heard of Thomas Beckett, we watch for the Green Flash at sundown, and we always put the binocular strap around our necks.
Flown west. You have control.
Online condolences may be made at www.hwwallacecbc.com
H.W. Wallance Cremation and Burial Centre