Soldiers race to get in position during the battle of Kapyong, a decisive moment for United Nations troops in the Korean War. (YouTube video screenshot)

Soldiers race to get in position during the battle of Kapyong, a decisive moment for United Nations troops in the Korean War. (YouTube video screenshot)

Korean War hero Ray Croker spending Remembrance Day in lockdown as pandemic rages on

A resident of the Waverly Seniors Village in Chilliwack, Croker can’t even see his wife

Ray Croker fought for Canadian freedom halfway across the world. He was a war hero whose quick thinking saved many lives in the Korean War.

But this Remembrance Day, COVID-19 is making him a prisoner in his own home.

At 89 years old, Ray is in full-time care with failing health in Chilliwack’s Waverly Seniors Village, a facility that is locked down on orders from Fraser Health to protect residents from the pandemic. Ray’s wife, Ann, is also in the Waverly, but she’s in the assisted living wing.

She is 300 metres away, separated by a steel door that won’t be opened. They can’t see each other. Four of Croker’s daughters live in Chilliwack, and they can’t visit their dad. They feel helpless.

On Nov. 11, Ray should be surrounded by friends and family thanking him for the sacrifices he made on their behalf. But beyond the kindness and comfort provided by the Waverly staff, he’ll be alone with his memories.

“This is a Fraser Health order,” said Ray’s son Vince, “Waverly has to follow it, but the staff at the Waverly are absolutely incredible,” “They have been amazing and they deserve a lot of kudos.”

Vince lives in Winnipeg where he spends many days in agony thinking about his dad.

The last time he saw him was in the summer. At the beginning of the pandemic, he came to B.C. where he had to fill out paperwork for 15 minutes to schedule a 30-minute visit with Ray.

He understood that, to a point. But he doesn’t understand why Ray can’t see Ann.

“I agree with Fraser Health trying to limit the traffic back and forth, but what our family doesn’t understand is, my mother is in lockdown and there’s been no COVID cases at Waverly and they’re all under one roof,” Vince said. “We don’t understand why she can’t gown up, wear a facemask and go to his room and comfort her husband.”

He’s been told by his sister that Ray cries and tells the Waverly staff he’s lonely.

“It kills me. It absolutely kills me,” Vince said, his voice breaking. “I can’t help thinking my dad was never a prisoner of war in Korea, but with what’s going on with COVID it seems like he is a POW in his own country.”

He wants people to know Ray’s amazing story, his role in one of the most important military events in our country’s history.

In 1951, Ray was just 20 years old, a lance corporal with Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry Regiment stationed at Kapyong. He was a radio operator who was listening to communications from Canada’s allies in the American, British and Australian armed forces.

As they discussed the movements and locations of their Chinese foes, Ray started plotting the information on a map. He was stunned to see the markings forming a circle, with his location in the middle. He quickly presented the information to Col. Jim Stone, who came up with a plan to defend the hill.

Longtime CBC journalist Dan Bjarnason chronicled the events in his book, ‘Triumph at Kapyong, Canada’s Pivotal Battle in the Korean War.’

He dubbed Ray ‘The man who saw it coming.’

According to his account, a few hours before Chinese forces launched their ultimately unsuccessful assault, Ray took a sniper’s bullet in the foot and was evacuated by helicopter. He never saw the battle unfold and didn’t talk about any of it for decades.

But without Ray’s contribution, the forces defending that hill would have been over-run and the Korean War would have taken a much different turn. After the successful defence at Kapyong, United Nations forces were able to capture Seoul, which is today the capital of South Korea and home to 9.7 million people.

Ray’s actions earned him a citation medal from United States president Harry Truman, an extremely rare thing for a Canadian soldier. He continued serving in the military for another 25 years before becoming an ordained minister, but he rarely spoke of Korea.

Even his own children, 10 of them in total, didn’t know the important role he played until he finally opened up in 2006, 55 years after the fact.

“When the can finally opened, it was like he was a different man,” Vince said. “For the first time, he started telling his kids he loved them. He had this tucked away so deep in his heart, it was hard for him to show who he really was.

“He managed to get through so much in his life, and now at the end it’s heart-wrenching to see him fighting another war that he’s not going to win.”


@ProgressSports
eric.welsh@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusNorth KoreaRemembrance DaySouth Korea Japan

Just Posted

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

Holger Schwichtenberg and his son Philip talk in the barn of the 150-acre Schwichtenberg farm. This farm is one of many throughout B.C. that support more than 12,500 jobs across the province in the dairy industry. (Contributed Photo/B.C. Dairy Association)
Agassiz dairy farm a model of care for environment, animals, and family

Farm is part of a dairy sector centred in the Fraser Valley, supporting 12,500 jobs province-wide

Kalyn Head, seen here on June 4, 2021, will be running 100 kilometres for her “birthday marathon” fundraiser on July 23. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Woman’s 100-km birthday marathon from Chilliwack to Abbotsford will benefit Special Olympics B.C.

Kalyn Head hopes run raises awareness, advocates for inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities

The Great Gordini puts on a magic show for an avid audience during the first Storytime in the Park in this 2019 photo. (Grace Kennedy/The Observer)
Storytime in the Park returns this summer

Day 1 registration is on June 30

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

Most Read