Honouring family in loss: Harold Kearl’s story

This Remembrance Day we acknowledge one of our donors Harold Kearl.

Harold Kearl is a veteran, a husband, a father and most recently, a supporter of music therapy.

As a young man, Harold and his older brother, Eldon, joined the Royal Canadian Air Force and went to serve their country in WWII. Both ran bombing missions over Germany, but in 1944, just as Eldon was turning 24, his Lancaster was shot down. Eldon died the same week that Harold got his wings. In honour of his brother, Harold continued on and flew the same number of successful missions as his brother. He also promised his family to find his brother’s grave and shortly after the war ended, he did just that.

In an extraordinary tale, Harold embarked on a mission to Russia controlled East Germany (passing what is known as the Iron Curtain) to honour his promise. After returning home, Harold honoured his brother’s legacy by inspiring others through their story of valour, brotherhood and family, later helping to create the Brothers in Arms exhibit at the Military Museum.

At the time of his return, Harold also met Marilyn who would shape the next chapter of his life and commitment to family for the next 75 years.

In early January 2020, Harold said goodbye to his wife of 72 years. As Marilyn rested in hospital with her beloved and their five children at her bedside, a music therapist joined them and offered to play a few songs.

This visit could not have been more serendipitous. Her entire life, Marilyn had been musical. She participated in church choirs, attended operas around the world, and passed her love of music down to her children.

Harold remembers the moment fondly.

“After the musician sang one or two songs, my daughter asked if we could all sing along. Soon we were all singing and it was the most beautiful thing”.

At 98 years old, Marilyn had suffered a stroke and was unresponsive, but Harold knows she heard her family’s singing.

“They say your hearing is the last of your senses to go, and I know that when her family was singing, her eyes twitched and she knew we were there with her.”

Harold was so moved by the experience at the Foothills Medical Centre that he decided to honour Marilyn’s legacy through the establishment of the Marilyn Kearl Music Therapy Endowment in hopes to share with others the powerful benefit of music in care.

Through this endowment, the music therapy program that operates throughout Calgary will benefit annually from Marilyn’s love of music and Harold’s love of her. Harold’s is an inspirational story of how giving can create a powerful legacy of family.

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