MRU pilot Jeffrey Bird remembered as a father, husband and soulmate
'He was like a beacon of happiness that radiated positivity everywhere and always.'
Hundreds gathered at Mount Royal University on Sunday for the funeral of Jeffrey Bird, 35, one of two aviation instructors killed in a plane crash near Waiparous.
Bird, along with Reynold Johnson, was piloting a twin-engine Tecnam owned by the university when it went down in the Waiparous area, roughly 100 kilometres northwest of Calgary, last week.
Bird's wife, Carly Barnett, called him, "my husband, my soulmate, my best friend."
"He was, simply put, my favourite person in the world," she said.
"Jeff was the happiest, smiliest, most positive person I, and many of us, have ever met. He was like a beacon of happiness that radiated positivity everywhere and always. If you think of the last time you saw Jeff, I'll bet you remember him with his big, bright grin lighting up his face."
Born in Calgary, Bird graduated from Lord Beaverbrook High School before earning a bachelor's degree in mathematics from the University of Calgary.
He then joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in 2005 and was posted to 4 Wing Cold Lake. He completed his flight training in Portage La Prairie, Man., Moose Jaw, Sask., and Gagetown, N.B.
After earning his wings in 2009, Bird joined the 408 Tactical Helicopter Squadron in Edmonton and was deployed to Afghanistan on Operation Athena, Roto 11, from March to September 2011.
In 2012, he was posted to Moose Jaw as an instructor pilot until his retirement from the RCAF in 2016.
Upon retiring from the military, Bird returned to Calgary as a flight instructor at MRU.
Along with his wife, Bird is survived by two children, daughter Celeste Bird and son Shane Bird.
"I think being a dad was Jeff's true calling in life and I know Jeff felt that way too," said Barnett.
Bird's younger brother, David Bird, called him "a friend and a role model."
"He always provided his little brother with an example to follow and gave guidance," he said. "In the early years, this guidance was in the form of bruises from his brotherly charley horses, and in the latter years, in the form of time spent and heartfelt talks where he was able to impart his knowledge and amazing spirit."
David said the family is hoping an ongoing Transportation Safety Board investigation will provide them with some answers as to what caused the crash.
"There's lots of lingering questions," he said. "That will hopefully give us some answers. The family would love to see some answers."
A funeral for Johnson is planned for Feb. 24 at St. Michael's Catholic Community.
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With files from Kate Adach