Family and friends are gathering in Saint John to remember the life of Ret. Sgt. Arthur “Art” Pottle.
Pottle passed away Sunday at the Ridgewood Veterans Wing. He was 98.
He is the last known New Brunswicker to have served in the First Special Service Force, a highly-trained unit of Canadian and U.S. soldiers carrying out secretive and dangerous missions against the Germans in the Second World War, nicknamed the Devil’s Brigade.
“Positive, wonderful man is all you hear from everybody,” said son Mark Pottle. “And online, people’s comments are awesome.”
“He had a wonderful, full life,” added daughter Frances Skinner.
“He gave a lot to a lot of people. I think one of the things I think about with my father is he started out in a tough world, coming on with the Depression and couldn’t go to school. And he was a man that loved to read, loved to learn.”
Tom LeBlanc’s father also served with the Devil’s Brigade. The younger LeBlanc is a board member with the First Special Service Force Association, an organization aimed at preserving the force’s legacy and continuing to tell its story.
The brigade paved the way for future elite military forces like Canada’s Joint Task Force 2 and the U.S. Green Berets. The unit inspired a Hollywood movie in 1968. It was awarded the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal in 2015.
“You just couldn’t break them,” LeBlanc said of the brigade. “Even the families today are carrying on this legacy of the force for these men, for Arthur Pottle and my dad. It’s just something that needs to be continued.”
Military accolades aside, he was as liable to be known in Saint John for being a school teacher or sports referee. In fact, his children say he rarely spoke about his military service at home.
“I think being busy and active, both in his family and in the community, was perhaps a way of dealing with the stress of what he experienced overseas,” said son John Pottle.
“I’m not sure why, whether he thought it would be disturbing, what he went through overseas,” said son Kent Pottle.
LeBlanc said there are only eleven members of the brigade left, including seven in Ontario, three in Alberta and one in Nova Scotia.
A memorial service for Pottle is scheduled for Friday in Saint John. On the same day in Nova Scotia, a celebration of life will be held for another former brigade member and friend of Pottle, Vernon Doucette, who passed away in January.
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