I found this pilot’s name in a logbook which belonged to a flight instructor at No. 2 S.F.T.S. Uplands.
LAC Perez-Gomez – Killed overseas…
While looking for more information on this student pilot, I found this story written in 2008. Luis Perez-Gomez is on the extreme left of the first row.
Memories a tango through time
The season of remembrance plays memory tricks on those who have lost loved ones to war.
Some experience images, and some say their memories trigger a scent.
By The Ottawa Citizen November 3, 2008
Memories a tango through time
The season of remembrance plays memory tricks on those who have lost loved ones to war. Some experience images, and some say their memories trigger a scent.
Dorothy Pratt hears music. It’s a tango.
In Ottawa as New Year’s 1943 approached, she was 16 and she was in love. Her name then was Dorothy O’Brien, the very proper daughter of a doctor. She was a figure skater, and she loved to dance. She had literally been swept off her feet by a man, little older than herself, who was the best dancer she would ever know.
He was Luis Perez-Gomez of Mexico City. He came to Ottawa to study English at Ottawa Technical High School, and to join the Royal Canadian Air Force. When they met at a community dance, he was in uniform. A little clumsy at first meeting, when they relaxed and let the music guide them, they could fly. He was a master of the tango, and became her teacher.
When he earned his wings, he invited her to be his guest at his graduation. On his last night before leaving for war, he asked her to join him for dinner and dancing. The place for such occasions was the Canadian Grill at the Château Laurier.
It was a fairytale kind of night, with other dancers stepping back and giving them the whole dance floor, and applauding.
Six months later, she would discover he had named her as his next-of-kin. A telegram arrived, saying he was missing in action. It was soon followed by another. Killed in action.
A decade later, she married Denis Pratt, a retired naval commander, and they had three children. He died in 2003. Through a full and rewarding life, she never forgot the dashing young dancer.
She has an interesting theory.
“It’s true, they (war dead) don’t age. In my memory, he’s about 20. And I’m 16.”
We all have pleasant memories we escape to and, when in need of a little recharging, Dorothy Pratt slips back in time and goes dancing at the Grill.
In 2001, Denis took Dorothy on a war graves tour of Europe, and located the lonely grave of F/O Luis Perez-Gomez in a village cemetery in Sassy, in Normandy. He was killed when his Spitfire was shot down 10 days after D-Day. The villagers buried him as one of their own, fearing the Germans would remove all identification.
After the war, Commonwealth War Graves decided it best to leave him there, and gave him a military headstone. There’s a similar marker nearby, for an unidentified Canadian airman.
When the villagers of Sassy heard the story of their foreign resident, they decided to make the story known to the few visitors they get. They invited Mrs. Pratt back in 2004, on the 60th anniversary of his death, and had her do the honours unveiling a plaque on their newly-named village square — Place Perez-Gomez.
They also want visitors to know the unique nature of that war grave. It is occupied by the only Mexican national lying under an RCAF marker from that war.
The story of the dancing fighter pilot and the girl who loved him was told in one of these columns on Nov. 6, 2001. More details appear in the latest issue of Air Force magazine.
Remembrance Day is marked in Mexico City by a gathering of veterans, mainly expatriate Brits. Luis Perez-Gomez is on their honour roll. This year, the service will be on Nov. 9. It’s easier to gather people on a Sunday.
The story of the dancing Mexican reached them, and they have invited Dorothy Pratt to attend. She’s 81.
“I could have said no,” she said. “But there’s a 16-year-old girl in me …”
Most of Luis’s relatives now live in Guadalajara and a delegation of them will attend the service in Mexico City. They know the story of Dorothy of Ottawa, and have invited her to their homes to meet the extended family. She didn’t hesitate to accept. She will take with her some of the mementoes of her first love, and will offer them to his family.
“It’s one of the strange things about getting to my age, that time seems to shrink and memories of long-ago events become much clearer. My husband was a wonderful and understanding man, and I love and miss him.”
She says she won’t hesitate, when she meets Luis’s family, to tell them there’s a part of her that still loves him.