‘A big boy with a big heart’

Originally published on June 16, 2015
Bonnie Learning/The Labradorian

Photos by Bonnie Learning/The Labradorian


Family of Cpl. Chad O’Quinn proud their son will live on in Happy Valley-Goose Bay 

Rhonda O’Quinn said words couldn’t express the gratitude she and her family felt today. “We are overwhelmed, humbled, honoured, and filled with so much pride,” Rhonda smiled.

Rhonda, along with husband, Ken, and son, Adam, attended a ceremony at the Broomfield Memorial Arena at noon hour, which saw the town officially name the street in the Town Centre after their son, Cpl. Kenneth Chad O’Quinn.

The street will be known as Corporal O’Quinn Blvd.

“At the beginning, we weren’t sure what the actual name would be,” said Rhonda. “But Julia (Kelland) emphasized the importance of having ‘Corporal’ in the name.”

Julia is a grade 11 student at Mealy Mountain Collegiate.

The O’Quinn family and the town say she was instrumental in making the street naming ceremony a reality.

“I did a grade 8 heritage fair project on the role of Canadians in Afghanistan,” recalls Julia, who is now in grade 11 at Mealy Mountain Collegiate. “My parents were good friends with Chad’s parents and they suggested I feature him in my project.”

After learning so much about Cpl. O’Quinn, Julia took it upon herself to approach the town about possibly naming a street after him.

“No one really knew who he was, other than that his family lived here for awhile,” said Julia. “I felt he should be talked about; it’s amazing that someone from here served their country and paid the ultimate price.

“He needs to be remembered.”

In his address to the crowd gathered for the ceremony, Mayor Jamie Snook said the entire community — and Canada — appreciates and respects Cpl. O’Quinn’s ultimate sacrifice.

“We have the utmost respect for Cpl. O’Quinn and his connection to our community,” said Snook.

“He had pride in the Canadian Forces and was dedicated to his contribution to the mission in Afghanistan.”

Maj. Alain Gilbert expressed his sentiments on behalf of Lt.-Col. Luc Sabourin, calling today’s event a ‘significant ceremony.’

“It’s important for us to commemorate the life and sacrifices of our fallen brothers and sisters in arms,” he said, noting the 158 Canadian soldiers who died in Afghanistan over a 12-year period.

“Sacrifices that make Canada strong and free, so we can live in comfort and peace.”

In a note sent along for the occasion, Labrador MP Yvonne Jones said Cpl. O’Quinn was a ‘proud son of Labrador.’

“His sacrifice and courage will not be forgotten; he is a Canadian hero,” she said.

In a joint statement, Minister Keith Russell and Premier Paul Davis sent a few words that were read out at the ceremony as well.

“This is a fitting tribute,” they said. “Cpl. O’Quinn made a strong impression on those who knew him and worked alongside him.”

In a personal note to the family, Premier Davis said the term ‘hero’ is not one that is used lightly.

“He stepped forward and put his own life in harms way. He made the ultimate sacrifice. He is our hero. Chad will not be forgotten.”

‘Very proud’

A member of the Signals Branch, Cpl. O’Quinn  — an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) specialist stationed at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown, N.B., — was killed in the line of duty while serving in Afghanistan on March 3, 2009.

Cpl. O’Quinn — along with Cpl. Danny Oliver Fortin and Warrant Officer Dennis Brown — died when a roadside bomb exploded near a patrol northwest of Kandahar City.

He was 25 years old.

His younger brother, Cpl. Adam O’Quinn, said it’s been a long road since his older brother’s death, but it was nice to come out for the ‘good stuff.’

“This ceremony helps him live on,” he said.

Adam says he will always remember his brother with a big smile on his face and recalls their love for a lot of the same stuff, including skydiving and motorcycles.

“There wasn’t much difference between us,” he smiles.

The two brothers also joined the military together right out of high school, with Chad signing up for the Army and Adam joining the Air Force.

But the military runs in their blood.

Father Ken was stationed at 5 Wing Goose Bay for 12 years between 1980 and 1992.

The family re-located to Gagetown, N.B. when Chad was eight years old.

Ken says the street naming honour is overwhelming.

“There’s always that fear that he’ll be forgotten,” he says.

“Every day is Remembrance Day for us. But to have something like this? It’s phenomenal. He’ll live on forever.”

Rhonda says there were lots of tears today, but they were tears of joy.

“There’s not enough praise for Julia or the town for what they did,” she says.

“Chad was a big boy with a big heart and I know he would be very proud today.”



July 7th, 2015

Posted In: Town Centre News