The Telegram (St. John’s Newfoundland)
21 June 2016
Several decades after a gesture of kindness to all Newfoundland orphans from an American serviceman, a former Mount Cashel orphanage resident’s eyes filled with tears Tuesday.
Earl Chilton — Photo from Storke Funeral Home, Bowling Green, VA, 22427
Chilton brightened the lives of hundreds of Newfoundland orphans through a fundraising effort to give them Christmas gifts — for some the only ones they ever had as children.
His family said many of the orphans from various facilities paid Chilton back in later years with cards, phone calls and visits. A group also located the St. John’s grave of the infant Chilton and his wife lost while stationed at Fort Pepperrell, and installed a gravestone.
“It was just a very special relationship. It meant the world to our dad,” Chilton’s daughters told The Telegram as they gathered around the phone Tuesday evening.
They said their father was just that kind of person, who would do an unconditional kindness for the orphans.
Their father had always wanted to come back to Newfoundland, but his daughters made the trip for him several years ago for the gravestone service.
According to a 2008 Telegram story by Telegram freelancer Danette Dooley, Earl Chilton Jr. and his wife, Emily, came to Newfoundland in 1951. As head of a service club at the base, he began visiting local orphanages.
When Christmas drew near, Chilton and other servicemen brought JC Penney, Sears and other catalogues to the children.
They encouraged each of the 600 orphans to choose a gift from Santa. He organized a concert to raise funds for the Santa effort.
When Chilton’s general heard about his efforts, he offered to fly Chilton to Mitchell’s Air Force Base in New York, where he’d be met by volunteers to help him handpick the Christmas presents.
When military personnel in New York heard about the Newfoundland orphans, they began phoning the big department stores.
Two planes were needed to bring the presents back to Newfoundland.
The Christmas event continued for several years in the 1950s, with the Argentia Naval Base and Harmon Air Force Base in Stephenville also taking part in the project.
Chilton spent 23 years in the United States Air Force.
While stationed in Newfoundland, he was the charter commander of the American Legion Post here.
After retiring from the Air Force, Chilton served for 23 years as a magistrate for the 15th Judicial District in Virginia and ran an outdoor shop for a number of years in Bowling Green.
Chilton is survived by his wife of 70 years, Emily Barlow Chilton, and five children — Dianne Webb, Debbie Dianis, Bobby Chilton, Donna Jenkins and Faye Krause.
He died in Bowling Green, Virginia. His obituary and funeral information can be found on Storke Funeral Home’s website at http://hosting-22393.tributes.com/obituary/show/Earl-Chilton-103686701