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Army, RCMP helped local man get on the straight and narrow

Colin Partridge is a Renaissance man of sorts who has followed his passion for art in his retirement years as part of The Steel Spirit initiative
The Steel Spirit is a gallery of art submissions and stories from members of the military, first responders and hospital practitioners (serving or retired). Due to the pandemic, the Steel Spirit has transitioned to a digital space so that artists can continue to share their works and stories with the community. Each month, we will feature a profile of one of the artists. Today, we turn the spotlight on Colin Partridge.

Colin Partridge was born on Sept. 16, 1942. His father, Hugh Douglas Partridge, serving with the British West Kent Regiment, was killed at the second Battle of El Aleman in Africa the day Colin was born.

“Growing up, I was not the model child. I was expelled from school in Grade 8," says Partridge. 

In his teens, he moved to Montreal and was sleeping on a couch in the back of a bar with no money and nowhere to go.

“One day, not knowing where my next meal was coming from, I walked past a store with a sign in the window that read, ‘Looking for a few good men’. It was an army recruiting centre and the next thing I knew I was on a train heading to Petawawa for basic training.”

A year later he was posted to Fort Chambly in West Germany for his overseas assignment. During that time, while on leave, he visited the Black Forest and was intrigued by the German wood carvers who carved old men's faces in the roots of trees.

“I really wanted to try to do this, but in those days at age 18, I was too busy chasing women and drinking beer so it didn't happen,” he said.

Partridge spent the next 26 years in the Canadian Army, firstly with the Canadian Guards infantry and then finally as a driver and heavy equipment supervisor.

Later on in his life, at the age of 45, he was running 10 kilometres every day and eventually met up with an RCMP Inspector while running in Ottawa.

“He asked me if I would like to join the RCMP. I told him I was too old and he said I was exactly what the force was looking for. So, three days of testing and 33 days later, I was standing on the parade square in Regina and a young Mountie in red serge approached me and said, 'What are you doing here Grandpa?'

"I got his respect the next day when we did the RCMP Depot run and out of 32 in my troop, I came in third. I should mention that at 45, the next oldest was 26 years of age.”

Partridge has now been retired 24 years after a combined total of 38 years serving the country.

After about six months into retirement, he was bored and decided to finally take up chainsaw carving as he thought back to his time overseas in Germany and the old men face carvings in the Black Forest.

“I decided to start carving these faces into tree stumps and soon had a full-time business," he said. "I carved into my seventies until I couldn't climb the scaffold anymore.”

Now as he approaches his 80s, he still paints every day and has tried many art forms. 

The Steel Spirit features artwork submissions by military, first responder and hospital practitioners and is always looking for new and emerging artists with and without experience, from every background and every age. For more information or if you would like to be involved, please visit: www.thesteelspirit.ca