Bill Handley

Obituary of Bill Handley

HANDLEY, Gerald “Bill” Edwin, CD Major (Ret) – Bedford, Nova Scotia

It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of Gerald “Bill” Edwin Handley CD, Major (Ret). He passed away peacefully on February 25th, 2021 at the age of 89, at The Madeline Assisted Living Facility in Hammonds Plains, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Born in Halifax on the 8th of September 1931, he was the son of the late Harry Handley and Kathleen (Tobin) Handley.  

Bill was surrounded by Military mentors at an early age.  Bill’s Uncle O’Sullivan was a Vet of the Boer War, and Bill’s father, Harry, a war vet of both WW1 and WW2. It was natural for Bill to follow in these men’s footsteps, and embark on his military career.

In 1951 at the age of 20, Bill joined the Royal Canadian Air Force as an Air Radar Ground Operator in Trenton Ontario. At this time post WW2, the Cold War was ramping up. Radar Operations was a Service to Canada and its Allies that was considered paramount to securing Democracy of the free world.

In Between military duties, Bill found the time to meet his lifelong partner Zella Jane Weeks in 1956, who was secretary for the Commanding Officer at the Beaverbank Radar Base in Nova Scotia. Bill and Zella happily married in 1958. 

When the Canadian Avro Arrow Fighter Jet Program stood down in 1959, it was replaced with the Nuclear Bomarc Missile System. Bill was the NCO Operator for the Nuclear Bomarc Testing and Approving Program, assisting in dealing with inert live fire exercises in Tyndall AFB Florida, and Canadian Program Implementation. 

As the Cold War progressed so did Bill’s career. Bill received his Flight Sergeants in 1961, at Ramstein, Germany Airforce Base. Bill had a major role as an Air Weapons Control Operator, in the unnerving Cold War Nuclear threats of its day, working in underground “Bunkers” intelligence gathering and monitoring.

Bill received his Queen's Commission from the Ranks to Airforce Officer as a 2nd Lieutenant in 1965 and was posted to the new DEW Line Radar Base in Senneterre Quebec, which Canada installed to give early detection of enemy Fighter Bombers flying over the North Pole to strike Canada and the USA.

Bill’s military career with the DEW Line promoted him to Captain, doing a tour as a Canadian attache exchange Officer in Baudette, Minnesota. 

That successful military exchange program brought him to North Bay Ontario, where his posting was back underground in the “hole” as the Air Weapons Control Officer “Fighter Cop Commander”. The “hole” refers to the NORAD North Bay Underground Complex, a bunker built in the 1960s to withstand a Soviet nuclear attack.

From his tireless contribution in the “hole”, Bill received his Senior Officer rank of Major, and a career posting to Hall Beach Baffin Island, where he became Commanding Officer of the first line of defense DEW Line base in the Canadian Arctic. 

After his Arctic tour and for a second time, in 1976, Bill was chosen to represent Canada as a Senior exchange Officer to the United States Military as the Canadian Detachment Commander at McChord Airforce Base in Tacoma Washington.

Posted back to North Bay Ontario in 1980, with his wife Zella and their 4 children in tow, Bill was attached-posted as Commander once again in the Arctic. Arctic postings were without the family, and his dedication placed him in Cambridge Bay, North West Territories as the Commanding Officer once again in a northern DEW Line Base. 

With pride and honour, Bill retired in 1983 after 32 years of unfaltering dedication to Queen and Country. Bill proudly witnessed his sons Kevin, Michael, and Grandson, Thomas join in the ranks of the Military, following in his footsteps and maintaining a Handley military tradition.

Moving back to his homeland in Nova Scotia, and after 10 years of working in the Dockyard of Halifax Shipyard, he became a fully retired member of society.

Throughout Bill's adult life, with anyone he touched, he wanted them to find their own journey. Bill loved life for all it would give him. He was an accomplished leader amongst men, whose life’s rules were based on the highest levels of integrity. 

In Bill’s spare time he became an accomplished survivalist/ woodsman, a lucky fisherman, a camper, a marksman hunter, and a long distance swimmer. With Zella his life long partner and wife, he shared the passion of square dancing and the prestigious accolade of the base ping-pong champ.  

He is survived by his wife, Zella (Weeks) of 62 years; 4 Children, Kevin (Darlene), Michael (Marie), Shelley (Tim), Ian (Dawn); 5 Grandchildren, Thomas (Allie), Myles (Michelle), Curtis (Madeline), Cassandra (Erik), Candace and 4 Great Grandchildren, Landon, Reid, Isaac, and Isla.

Cremation has taken place under the direction of Ettinger Funeral Home, Shubenacadie.  A burial service will be announced at a later date.

The family would like to thank the home caregivers at the Madeline for the love and care they provided to Gerald in the time he spent with them and especially in his final days.

Tributes, words of comfort and memories of Gerald may be shared with the family at


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