Looking for a hobby? This retired military member isn’t just clowning around. “I have a goal to clown for 6000 hours. Think about that for a minute. That’s a whole lot of fun and a whole lot of smiles,” said retired Air Force member, and active Shriner, Craig McPhee.
When McPhee was a child, he found himself ill in bed. Looking out the window he recalls seeing a bunch of men on little motorcycles wearing funny red hats ride by his window. He told himself one day he would be one of those men and he never looked back. While in the military he joined the Masons, fulfilled the obligations of each of three levels, then moved on to become a Shriner. “We’re a dying breed. There used to be 950,000 Shriners, now there are only 300,000, and most of them are like me, over seventy years old. We could use some new people.”
While McPhee was in the Canadian Armed Forces he took a class in clowning.
“Not to enhance my military career, but to be a clown with the Shriners. I loved it. I needed to become more proficient in my make-up and my uniforms. Yes, we call our costumes uniforms. I became so good as a clown I came in third at a Shriner World Competition of Clowning. Can you imagine?” Shriners are known for their volunteer work and service to their community and beyond.
“That’s why I would like people, military members, to become involved. There are opportunities to make a difference in your community that you can only imagine. A lot of the work we do is anonymous of course. So, I can’t give you too many details. I know the work we do heals people. Not just the person we are doing things for, but the people who do the work. Being a Shriner opens the door to meeting new people too. You have to get out and do volunteer work. It just changes you. It makes you whole.”
Shriners are a brotherhood of men committed to family, engaged in ongoing personal growth, and dedicated to providing care for children and families in need.
“Women can join the Order of the Eastern Star. The backgrounds and interests of members are diverse, but we are bound together by our shared values and a desire to have fun, do good and build relationships that can last a lifetime,” said McPhee.
McPhee was born in Montreal, Quebec. He moved with his family to Vancouver, British Columbia as a youngster. In 1956 McPhee joined the Royal Canadian Air force and completed his basic training in St. Jean, Quebec. His first posting was Air Transport Command Headquarters in Lachine, Quebec.
He then went to 412 Transport Squadron in Ottawa, Ontario. McPhee was then posted to the 41st NORAD Division in North Bay, Ontario, followed by a tour of duty at the Canadian Forces School of Intelligence and Security, at Camp Borden, as an Instructor, and did tours at National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa for a total of 13 years. In addition, he spent 13 years outside Canada at 29 NORAD Region, Richards Gebaur Air Force Base Kansas City, MO, 4 Fighter Wing Baden Baden, Germany, Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe Headquarters Mons, Belgium, and 4 Allied Tactical Air Force Ramstein, Germany.
McPhee retired from the military in October, 1982 and immediately joined the sales team of Grand & Toy in Ottawa. In 1989 he was the Salesman of the Year for Canada. In 2004, Craig retired for the second time. In 2007 he started his third career, Wreaths Across Canada. Throughout it all McPhee has been a clown, making people smile all across Canada.
If you or someone you know is interested in clowning please email [email protected]
To learn more about becoming a Shriner please visit www.shrinersinternational.org