Rob Fitzsimmons volunteered at the museum for about two years, and in that time he developed a reputation for precision craftsmanship. Among other carpentry projects and display pieces, Fitzsimmons created what we a lovingly call “the Potato.” It’s a huge movable platform that forms that basis of the Fokker Universal display at the very front of the museum.
Fitzsimmons died earlier this month at the age of 71. He spent 40 years as an architectural technologist and his wife, Anna Zelensky, says his drawings paved the way for dozens of important commercial buildings across Edmonton.
But growing up in Winnipeg he was an avid musician.
“He used to play in a band called The Shags, ” Zelensky says. “He used to compete in Battle of the Bands with the likes of Randy Bachman, Burton Cummings and Neil Young. He grew up with all those guys.”
“When Randy Backman came through in 2010, we went to his concert at River Cree (Casino) and when we’re sitting 20 feet off the stage, Randy looked at Burton and pointed at Rob and they both (motioned us) to the backroom at half time to see them.”
Bev Champion was the wife of one of our most important members, Terry Champion. He has been instrumental in almost every aspect of building our museum and working tirelessly to raise money to keep the lights on and the doors open. Terry Champion also flew with 418 (City of Edmonton) Squadron after the war, then went on to a long career with PWA and Canadian Airlines.
Terry Champion met Bev on a flight to Vancouver after being introduced to the mother of one of his young flight attendants.
But Bev Champion also had her own aviation connection. She worked several years as a ticket agent for PWA, a job she loved.
“I have been going through the pictures of Bev and I cannot find one where she is not smiling,” notes Terry. “She was a very personable person and she loved working with the public and was very good at it.”
She was also an avid volunteer with the museum in its early years in the 1990’s. Terry Champion remembers she often did many menial jobs around the hangar, including cleaning the bathrooms.
She was forced to stop her work at the museum due to degenerative arthritis, the first in a long series of debilitating illnesses which lasted until her death in mid-February 2018 at the age of 87. (Read the full obituary here.)
Terry Champion is quick to point out that despite her illness, Bev continued to play an important role in success of the AAM.
“In those days I spent litterally hundreds and hundreds of hours here. And only once or twice did she say, ‘Why don’t you get a cot and put it in the boardroom.’ You can’t do that kind of thing if your wife doesn’t like what you are doing.”
We extend our condolences to the friends and family of both Rob Fitzsimmons and Bev Champion.
Although we say it again and again, it bears repeating.
Our hangar would not be here today if not for the selfless devotion of so many volunteers.