A World War II spitfire pilot. A husband. A father. A loyal SHN supporter. These are just some of the ways to describe legacy donor Thomas Wheler, although no words could ever accurately capture the kindness and generosity with which he lived his life.

Thomas grew up in East Toronto during the Great Depression. With a desire to serve his country during the Second World War and a love of flying, he became a Spitfire pilot for the Royal Canadian Air Force.

“My dad’s love of flying went all the way back to when he was a child,” said Gail, Thomas’s daughter. “He kept his pilot’s license until he was well into his 80’s, and it truly was his passion.”

While serving his country during the war, enemies shot down Thomas’s plane in June of 1944, and they took him as a prisoner of war.

Escaping his captors not once but three times, Thomas was sent to England to recover from his harrowing experience. However, he was soon sent home to Canada because escaped prisoners of war could not return to fighting. Because if they were captured again, they would have been executed for escaping.

Upon his return to Canada, he married the love of his life, Milly Lush, to whom he was engaged before he left to fight overseas. Milly’s father, Harold Victor Lush, was the founder of Supreme Aluminum Industries in Toronto’s east end and was instrumental in founding SHN’s Centenary hospital.

“Philanthropy runs deep in our family,” said Gail. “My grandfather did a lot of fundraising to help build the Centenary hospital, and all six of his children volunteered at the hospital and helped with fundraising whenever they could. My mom was a volunteer there for 15 years.”

Thomas stayed in the Air Force until 1968, moving around the world with Milly and their five children. He then retired as a Squadron Leader and returned home to Toronto, where he worked for Supreme Aluminum Industries, his father-in-law’s company, retiring in 1979.

“He truly was a man who had a will to live! He had a number of serious operations at Centenary hospital and always battled his way to full recovery,” Gail said. “He had a deep respect for the doctors, nurses and support staff who provided care to him and my mom. He felt a strong connection to Scarborough and Centenary hospital because of our family’s history, so it was only fitting that he included SHN in his will.”

Thomas Wheler’s story inspires us at SHN Foundation because his legacy will live on through his gift. For a man who lived his life to the fullest, with compassion, strength and courage, may his legacy live on through the people in Scarborough who will receive world-class health care thanks to donations like his.

May is Leave a Legacy month, and if you would like to learn more about including SHN in your will or estate, please visit SHN’s Legacy Giving page or contact Verna Chen, Associate Vice President, Donor Engagement, at 416-438-2911 ext. 6040 or vchen@shn.ca