After more than 44 years as a member of the RCMP, Staff Sgt. Major Dave Tipple hung up his spurs on June 25, 2014.
Originally from Corner Brook, he joined the RCMP on March 23, 1970, and retired as the longest serving Mountie in Newfoundland and Labrador.
“I simply loved my job,” he says, when asked why he served for so long.
Today, as a proud member of the RCMP Veterans’ Association, he has a new passion; honouring members who have passed away. Tipple and his wife, Valgene, spend their free time driving from grave yard to grave yard, searching historical files and tracking down family members to find the graves of deceased RCMP members.
When he first took over as Staff Sergeant Major, one of the duties included being responsible for ordering Regimental Headstones and RCMP Inscriptions for Headstones. At that time, the Veterans looked after the grave site conditions. They ensured the headstone, marker and grounds, were taken care of and deficiencies, whether they be repair, cleaning or other upkeep issues, were rectified. Tipple, and Veterans George Powell and Bob Medd decided to form a Last Post Committee. Tipple stayed on the committee after retirement.
He decided to locate all the grave sites of RCMP Members in Newfoundland and Labrador. He then took it upon himself to not only find the graves, but to record the graves of all Regular Member, Civilian Member and Special Constables who died in Newfoundland and Labrador who are buried out of the province, and those who died on the mainland who are buried in the province. No easy task to say the least.
Over the last five years, he has visited and inspected just about every grave and columbarium site on the Island. Once found, he takes care of it and places the B Division Ensign on each one. That process is repeated every year.
In Labrador, he asks the serving members and veterans to inspect the graves. “If I can’t get to the graves, I will ask other veterans to check on them for me and they are always willing to help.”
Tipples says he is still looking for graves. “When you think about it, we’re only seventy years old in this province and we already don’t know where our members are buried.” He says, “No, that’s not right. We should know where everyone is, and I think we are close to that mark.”
Tipple is still looking for graves of Newfoundland Rangers who served with the Force. “They may have served six months or a year. But I would still like to find their graves and mark them.”
His excellent investigative skills have uncovered three members from Newfoundland on the RCMP Honour Roll: #30791 Cst. Bruce Lindberg Davis, (Honour Roll #158, died on duty in Portage La Praire, Manitoba) buried in Gander, #36327 Cst. Douglas Ambrose Mark Butler, (Honour Roll #170, died on duty at Oxbow, Saskatchewan) buried in Upper Island Cove, and #25165 Cst. Derek Thomas Ivany, (Honour Roll #144, died on duty in St. Arthur, New Brunswick) buried in Grand Falls.
He also discovered that two members buried here received prestigious medals. #16200 Cpl Eric Bruce Gillingham (Former Newfoundland Ranger), was awarded The King's Police and Fire Services Medal for Gallantry, in connection with a murder investigation. Special Constable Frank Matthews, who sailed on the historic 1944 voyage of The St. Roch from Halifax to Vancouver through the North West Passage, received The Polar Medal awarded to each crew member by King George Vl.
Once someone gives him a piece of information, he doesn’t give up until he finds the grave. A retired member now living in Australia was traveling in Labrador and came across information that indicated Cst. Marcel Raoul Thevenet was buried in North West River. Due to travel conditions and the fact he was traveling with a group, he did not have time to explore further. He passed on the information to Veteran Tom Lowe in “H” Division, who in turn passed the information on to Retired S/S/M. Tipple.
Tipple says, “According to Veteran Lowe, Cst. Thevenet was born in Soissons, France. He apparently ran a trading post in opposition to the Hudson’s Bay Company. He joined the NWMP on April 18th, 1898 and served in “K” Division. Then on 16th November 1900 he became Service #319 and was sent to South Africa in the Boer War, with the 2nd Battalion, Canadian Mounted Rifles.”
S/S/M. Tipple enlisted the help of serving member S/Sgt. Sandy Goudie from Happy Valley/ Goose Bay. Goudie tracked down and spoke with Cst. Thevenet’s grandson, who resides in the area and found that indeed his grandfather was #3251 Cst. Marcel Raoul (SAW) TREVENET who did serve in the NWMP and is buried in the Main Cemetery, in North West River, Labrador with no RCMP or NWMP markings. Tipple now ensures his grave is inspected each year and a B Division Ensign is placed on it.
He also discovered #9994 Sgt. George Tingley Makinson. In 1923, Makinson joined the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Halifax. He mainly served in western Canada and the Canadian Arctic. While he was stationed on Ellesmere Island from 1927 to 1928, he discovered an inlet that was later named Makinson Inlet. Makinson served aboard the RCMP supply schooner St. Roch from 1933 to 1936. In 1943, he retired from the RCMP while posted in Swift Current, Saskatchewan and he returned to Newfoundland to operate the family dairy farm. When Newfoundland joined Confederation in 1949, Makinson was elected Liberal MHA in the 1st Provincial Assembly for the Riding of Port de Grave.
When asked what drives him, Tipples says, “Even though their father or grand father only served for a short time in the Force, families still talks about it with great pride seventy years later. So, I think it’s important that the RCMP also remember them.”
He tells the story of a young constable who died of cancer in Nova Scotia. Tipple had inspected his grave and placed the B Division Ensign on it. The constable’s father, who visited his son’s grave almost every day found the flag and went to Deer Lake Detachment to find out who had put it there and why. When he was told that the Veterans do this to all the graves the father was overcome and couldn’t get over that the Force did not forget his son.
Tipples adds, “It’s the Veterans who keep this going. Our Veterans throughout the province takes this task on.”
To date, Retired S/S/M. Tipple, his wife, Valgene, and Veterans throughout the province have marked 195 graves of Regular Members, Civilian Members, and Special Constables.
It gives a whole new meaning to, “We Will Remember Them.”
S/S/M Dave Tipples story as well as other stories are available in the historical book from Flanker Press "In Search of Adventure" Buy it and Escott’s other novels at: Chapters, and Coles. Also, online at indigo.ca Apple – iTunes, Nook – (Barnes & Noble), Amazon, and Kobo. National and international orders can be placed by calling 1-866-739-4420 ext. #22 or you can send e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org