Even at 95, Pat Coburn can still remember that day in 1945 when he dove down and pulled a man from the depths of Rideau River.
Now, 75 years later, he’s also finally receiving the medal his heroic effort earned.
“I remember vivid details,” said Coburn, who came to Penticton more than 60 years ago as a player and coach for the Penticton Vees.
In 1946, when he was 20, Coburn saved the life of 17-year-old Jean-Marc Aubin, an action for which he was awarded a Medal for Bravery by the Royal Canadian Humane Association in 1946.
Coburn had been working as a life-guard at the Brighton Beach Aquatic Club in Ontario, when Aubin had become exhausted swimming in the Rideau River.
“I had no idea where the kid was in the river. I rowed out in a rowboat to where they told me he went down, and I rowed around until I saw a steady stream of bubbles,” Coburn recalled. “I knew that that was him when I saw that.
“I dove down, about 12 to 15 feet into the river, and of course the boat was carried down the river by the current. So I had to carry him to the diving tower, which was about 30 to 40 feet away, and carried up there.”
After hauling Aubin’s waterlogged body up the tower, Coburn began to resuscitate him, and after close to a minute later, Aubin coughed up the water in his lungs and started breathing again.
“That’s when I knew I had him,” said Coburn.
He was unable to receive a medal at the time, due to the ongoing war effort, with the promise that he would receive it once World War 2 had finished.
“After the war was over, I never heard from them. My daughter got this all going, and got in touch with them and they had all the records right there, from 75 years ago,” said Coburn.
On March 12, Penticton Mayor John Vassilaki presented Coburn with his medal.
Coburn and Marc-Aubin had reunited many years later, before Aubin passed away in 2013 at the age of 83.
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