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Veteran pilot memorialized in new painting


Southern Alberta and Calgary has a rich history of pilots with names like Barlow, McKnight, and McCall all of which are memorialized with city streets named after them.

Now one of them has become the inspiration for a painting.

Jack Hilton was also one of those famous local pilots. He flew over 100 missions in the Second World War in a Typhoon fighter. He then trained young men to become pilots. Hilton was also a member and volunteer at the Hangar Flight Museum and staff thought he was under represented in Calgary's aviation history, until now.

Executive director Brian Desjardins connected with artist Bany Declair through social media. Declair wanted to donate a painting to the museum and she worked with Desjardins on subject material. Seeing all the historic pilot photos, Declair was drawn to Jack Hilton.

"I think it's a duty to leave something behind," said Declair. "It's a donation, it's not for money and it's for all these young kids and also every hangar needs a pilot."

She spent 13 days creating the colourful painting that measures 4.5 by 2.1 metres. Declair says it's one of the hardest pieces of work she's done.

"I started by exactly drawing Jack Hilton and then I covered the piece with 28, 24 carat gold leaves symbolically and then I covered most of these gold leaves," said Declair.

The painting features Hilton in the middle. On the right is his airborne Typhoon fighter and a European wartime landscape. The left side represents the peaceful Alberta Rocky Mountains, trees and a lake.

"When I came around the corner and I saw it, I knew it was big but when you actually see it up front and how big the canvas is and just to see all the colours and the vibrancy of it," said Desjardins.

Declair was visited by a number of veterans families while she was painting in her Eau Clair Market studio who expressed their gratitude for her work. The painting is called 'Coming Home' and valued at upwards of $20,000.

Declair says she likes to capture the past, present and future in her work. Presently she said the painting represents front line workers.

"I think the general feeling that in this pandemic when we come home it's that feeling of contentment," said Declair. "A little smile in the corner of your lips and this is what I wanted to illustrate in my piece is the feeling, the emotion of coming home."

"I believe it's not just a tribute to Jack Hilton," said Desjardins. "It's a tribute to all air force pilots, particularly in Calgary."

Declair said there are always a few finishing touches that could be added to any piece of art.

"There's a moment you look at your piece and I don't know, there's a magic that happens and you say is it perfect? No. Is the magic there? Yes. Then I accept it."

The Hangar Flight Museum re-opens to the public June 17. At some point in the near future Jack Hilton's family will be invited to the official unveiling of painting. Top Stories

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