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Obituary and Remembrances of Ben Misener (Erland Benton Misener), who served on HMS Virago [born 1923 - died 2011]

I noticed Ben Misener's obituary in the Toronto Star newspaper on September 3, 2011. His story struck a cord, not just because he was a navy man who had made the Murmansk Run, but because he was a creative and giving teacher/principal/leader after the War, widely praised for his work in education. His life, despite a horrific war experience, was a great boon to society. Ben Misener was not an ordinary man; he was an exceptional man. As a young teacher myself, I (unknowingly) read stories with my students from books he helped author: "Golden Spurs", "Story Caravan" and "Argosy".

Ben Misener contributed his War remembrances to The Memory Project (his voice on audio, also transcribed). Dan Delong.

The Memory Project:

Published in the Toronto Star on September 3, 2011

E Benton Milener in Edinburgh 1944ERLAND BENTON (BEN) MISENER Was born 26 July 1923 in Toronto, and educated at Queen Victoria Elementary School and Parkdale Collegiate.
He was a Sub-Lieutenant in the Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve from 1943 to 1945, and a Lieutenant on loan to the Royal Navy on HMS 'Virago' for the next three years. HMS 'Virago', a Fleet Destroyer, took part in the sinking of the German battleship 'Scharnhorst', Russian convoys to Murmansk, 'D' Day landings in France, and the sinking of the Japanese Crusier ' Haguro'.
On 24 May 1947, Ben married Margaret Aileen Maddigan (Peggy), and in June, graduated with a BA from Victoria College. In 1949, he received his teaching certificate from Toronto Teachers College and taught at Islington Elementary School for three years. He was appointed principal at Thistletown Public School in 1952, the first of many principalships in Etobicoke: Fairhaven Elementary (1957), Kipling Grove Elementary (1960), West Humber Elementary (1966), Clairville Elementary (1972), Eatonville Elementary (1979).
He graduated with a BEd from the University of Toronto in 1958, and took a year's leave of absence to attend an Associate of Education course at the University of London in England in 1962-3. In 1965, he worked as a coordinator for the Etobicoke Board of Education. A creative educator, Ben wrote stories for and acted as co-editor for a series of three innovative elementary school readers that focused on exciting Canadian adventures to encourage boys, especially to read: 'Golden Spurs', 'Story Caravan' and 'Argosy'.
He painted the walls of Clairville School with insects, butterflies, characters from books and the flags of all the nations of the children who attended the school. He held Robbie Burns concerts, Japanese days, German days, and Canadian day celebrations, and visited classrooms in his own and other schools, dressed as a Cowboy, a Mountain Man, a Sailor or a Highland Scot.
Ben also served on Board committees that set up the School of Arts and Resource Centres in Etobicoke. He inaugurated the first Summer Days Camps in Etobicoke and became director of all six camps.
Ben retired in 1981, and with his son-in-law, built a house in Thornbury, using skills acquired from many home renovations and the building of seven boats, ranging from an eight-foot dinghy to a thiry-five-foot trimaran, his beloved ' Mahane Vahini'. In retirement Ben and Peggy camped in Canada and the Eastern United States and travelled to Europe to visit family members and friends from Ben's naval days and from their year in England. They greatly enjoyed their visits of former members of Ben's teaching staff, and made many friends in their new community.
He will be greatly missed by his children, Martha, Magi, Bill, Nancy (Bob), and his nine grandchildren. Special thanks to Dr. Shelley Turner and the nursing staff at Collingwood General and Marine Hospital for their care and comfort.
At Ben's request no formal services will be held. In lieu of flowers, a donation may be made to Sleeping Children Around the World or a charity of your choice. Friends may visit Ben's online Book of Memories at

HMS Virago V class destroyer

Ben Misener

Commemorative medals put out by various organizations to honour the veterans who participated the following actions:

Left:  The Arctic Medal, commissioned by the North Russia Club for the men who served on the Murmansk Run.
Centre: Commemorative Medal issued by the Russian Federation to honour the 50th Anniversary of victory in the Second World War.
Right: Commemorative medal issued by the Normandy Veteran Association to those who took part in Dday and the Allied invasion of France.
Below:  The Arctic Emblem, issued by the U.K. to honour the veterans who served in the Arctic waters.


Mr. Misener was my grade 8 teacher at Fairhaven Public School in the late 50’s. I have thought of him often but had no idea where he went after we both left Fairhaven and it was only by accident I saw his obit in the Star. Of the many, many teachers I have had he is one of the 2 most prominent. Even over 50 years later I well remember his reading stories to his 7 and 8 class – usually stories involving sailing or the sea. In hindsight it must have been risky to take so much class time to just read stories - weren’t there more important things to do? But I’m sure my lifelong love of reading books and adventure stories is partly because he took the time to read to us. I also remember, not quite so fondly, the many story writing assignments he would give us. He would suggest a theme, a phrase or a concept and we would have to turn in a few pages based on that the next Monday morning. Many a Sunday night was spent trying to get these assignments done and I still am embarrassed by some of the stuff handed in. No other teacher ever challenged me to write the way he did. The obit makes it clear the energy and creativity and verve he put in to making my grade 8 memorable were hallmarks of his whole teaching career.


"I remember him driving a red MG, right-hand drive, which was pretty cool for Thistletown in 1953. He taught us about explorers and pirates. I think he had a child-like sense of wonder and excitement that enabled him to inspire us." Carolyn Salisbury ( Wells, UK)


"As a student at Thistletown Public School in the 1950's, I remember with awe our Principal "Ben" Misener. My condolences to his family. He lived a full and fruitful life and the world is a poorer place without him." Lynn Marnie ( Barrie, ON )


"The Ship That Flew"

As I student at Kipling Grove Public School in the early 1960s I remember Mr. Misener, then the principal, coming into our classroom once a week to read out-loud a children's novel; "The Ship That Flew". He held the class spellbound during those weekly installment sessions, and gave us an appreciation of the joy of reading.

It is a testament to his ability as an educator that I remember his lesson after all these years.

May he rest in peace.

Steve Schillaci,

Pickering, Ontario

Heard about him all my life but only met him once

My mother, Martha Wilson, worked with Ben Misener at Clairville Public School and has spoken of him fondly ever since. I went in one late summer day to help my mother set up her room and met Mr. Misener- a very brief encounter and yet I have been influenced by his wisdom and his love of teaching through the many stories my mother has told us through the years. If he influenced me despite only one short meeting, I can only imagine the amazing impact his life made on so many teachers, students, family and friends.

Webmaster: Dan Delong - Updated: September 12, 2011