A naval hero lives on in the name of DeWolf Park in Bedford
By Courtney Zwicker 9 May 2017 Share this story
Vice-Admiral Henry George (Harry) DeWolf is one of the most decorated Canadian naval officer of the Second World War. He was born in Bedford in 1903 and lived there until the age of 14, when he left for the Royal Naval College in British Columbia. In 1992, the Bedford community recognized the war hero’s commendable service by naming a park on the basin after him.
In early 1930, Lt. DeWolf received his first command: to serve on the battle class trawler called HMCS Festubert. He was stationed outside of Halifax. In 1931, he married Gwendolen Gilbert of Bermuda, who he met while training three years earlier. In July 1935 he was promoted to lieutenant commander and posted to National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa.
DeWolf served on two crafts during the Second World War. In 1939, he was appointed commanding officer of the destroyer HMCS St. Laurent, which was was posted to convoy duty out of Halifax. His time as commander of the HMSC Haida is regarded as his biggest naval success. In August 1943, he earned the HMSC Haida the reputation as “the fightingest ship in the Canadian Navy.” He sunk 14 enemy ships, mostly in battles in the English Channel.
After the war years, DeWolf commanded aircraft carriers before being promoted to vice-admiral in 1956. He retired his career in 1960 and moved to Bermuda with his wife, spending summers in Ottawa.
In the mid 1980s, the now DeWolf Park parkland was originally created as the result of infilling. Sludge that was causing flooding of the Sackville River was put into the basin. The parkland, along with services from landscape architects, were given as a donation to the community by the Bedford Waterfront Corporation.
It was a group of men who served under Cmdr. DeWolf that reached out to the Bedford Recreation Commission with a special request. They suggested that the park be dedicated to DeWolf. The commission agreed that DeWolf should have a presence in the park and decided to work with the group. They placed a rock in the park with a plaque on it describing a brief history of DeWolf.
Ann MacVicar, who was the chair of the recreation commission at the time, says there was never a doubt that the park should be named after the hometown hero. “[The men] made a presentation and I think there was no hesitation by anyone,” she says. “It was a very suitable name.”
DeWolf came to the dedication with his wife.
The park is an active spot with people going for walks on the one-mile path along the water and fishing off the wharf that was constructed in 2003. The playground equipment, which was installed in 2005, has also made the space a popular spot for children. Special events take place every year at DeWolf Park on Canada Day, Bedford Days and an annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony is also held.
Councillor Tim Outhit says more work will be put into the busy park. “Certainly it’s a well-used park,” he says. “A permanent washroom will be put in place as well as an outdoor gym.”
“Unfortunately, I think we’re going to need some more space,” he adds. “I’m pushing to get more green space.”
In 2000, DeWolf donated $100,000 to the city, just a few weeks before he died in Ottawa. Though few of his direct descendants still live in Bedford, his family house still remains standing as the WCL Bauld Insurance office on the Bedford Highway.
This story was originally published in Halifax Magazine.
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