Bob Morton – obituary

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4946 Lieutenant-General (Retired) Robert W. Morton, CMM, CD, BSc(RMC)

Editor’s Note: The Millstone has learned that Mr. Morton died in 2002, a fact not noted by the individual who sent us the obituary. We apologize for any inconvenience to the family of Mr. Morton that we may have caused. We think, however, that the 10th anniversary of his death is an occasion worth noting as he is indeed a distinguished native of Almonte.

Bob Morton retired from the Canadian Forces in 1992 with the rank of Lieutenant-General and from the position of Deputy Commander-In-Chief of NORAD, Colorado Springs – a fitting end to an illustrious career. 

He was born on 23 March 1937 in Almonte, Ontario.  Upon graduation, he was selected to attend the Canadian Services Colleges and went to Royal Roads, British Columbia for two years and then to the Royal Military College at Kingston, Ontario.  He graduated with a BSc and entered the RCAF as a pilot, receiving his wings in the same year.  His first posting was to 2 Wing, Grostenquin in France where he flew F-86 Sabres.  He returned to Canada and served as a staff officer at National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa and then as a flying instructor at RCAF Station Gimli, Manitoba. 

Bob was promoted to the rank of Major and sent to NORAD, Directorate of War Games, Colorado Springs in 1968. He returned to Canada and attended the Canadian Forces Staff College in 1971, and upon graduation he moved to Canadian Forces Base Chatham as a CF101B Voodoo pilot on 416 Squadron.  While at Chatham he was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel and served as the Base Operations Officer, before his transfer to Ottawa.  He was part of the Air Requirements Staff.  Promoted to the rank of Colonel, he returned in 1978 to NORAD HQ as a senior director.  In 1981, he attended the National Defence College, Kingston, Ontario.  Upon his promotion to Brigadier-General, he was transferred to NATO HQ, Heidelberg, Germany in 1982, where he was the senior Canadian officer and jointly responsible for tactical air operation.  Shortly thereafter he was promoted to Major-General (in 1984) and assumed command of Fighter Group in North Bay, Ontario. He returned to Ottawa to the position of Chief of Air Doctrine and Operations in which he directed air policy and planning.  Then, in 1989, he was promoted to Lieutenant-General and became the Deputy Commander for NORAD.

It is interesting to note that Bob never commanded an operational aircraft squadron, nor was he a base commander during his career.  His superiors recognized that Bob possessed outstanding leadership skills and he did not require these tours of duty to demonstrate his ability.  Neither was there time for such postings in his rapid rise to three-star general.

Bob was recognized to have that remarkable talent of being able to listen to discussions and debate and then extract and summarize the cogent part to allow a decision to be forthcoming.  He was an amazing writer and speaker as well.  He could communicate succinctly complex concepts and ideas to a range of audiences.  Undoubtedly, this talent served him well as a staff officer during his career and contributed to his rapid promotions.  During retirement, he continued to be in great demand by associations and organizations to speak and write on a range of topical defence and military subjects.  Two examples are noteworthy. He was asked to chair the well-respected Officer Development Review Board.  Bob’s appointment was particularly appropriate, as he was a strong believer in the importance of military officers being educated and informed in order to carry out their responsibilities.  During his stewardship, the report of this Board, which came to be known as the Morton Report, had a profound influence on many of the Government’s efforts in this area over the past several years.  He was also a member of the Air Command Advisory Council where he provided the incumbent commanders with outstanding advice.

His decorations and honours include the NATO Service Medal, the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Medal, and Canadian Defence Medal with two clasps and the United States Legion of Merit Medal.  He was made a Commander of Military Merit and was awarded an honourary doctorate from the Collège Militaire Royale for his help in establishing an aerospace studies program at the college.

Above all else, Bob cherished his family.  He was a devoted family man and enjoyed the warmth and constant support of his wife, Pat and their children.  His three granddaughters brought him great joy.  After his family, his love of flying, particularly his Sabre, and hunting with his son came next.  With his incisive intellect and engaging charm, it is not surprising that his fellow officers, colleagues and politicians respected Bob.  His astute counsel, wise observations and thoughtful advice were his hallmarks, yet one always felt at ease in his presence.  His warmth and kindness were always evident.

We will miss him sorely.

4837 Lieutenant-Colonel (Retired) Harvey Nielsen