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Capt. Ralph B. Huene, R.C.A.S.C., drowned in the Yukon Territory

Information compiled by Murray Lundberg

Arctic & Northern Biographies

Highlights of History from The Whitehorse Star

The Province (Vancouver, B.C.) - Thursday, October 22, 1958

Former Fraser Valley man missing at Marsh Lake, 1958

    A former Fraser Valley man and UBC graduate is missing in the Yukon.

    He is Capt. Boris von Hoyningen Huene, 36, whose parents, Mr. and Mrs. Hans J. H. Huene, live at 11631 Ninetieth Avenue, Delta.

    HE DISAPPEARED with another soldier, Staff Sgt. Louis Kuhn, 40 on Sunday after taking ashore a boatload of supplies from an island on Marsh Lake, 30 miles south of Whitehorse.

    Both men are with the Northwest Highway System of the Canadian Army.

    The men left their wives on the island, where they were building a cabin, saying they would return shortly.

    The supplies were found on the shore, but there was no sign of the men or their boat.

    THREE RCMP BOATS and detachments of army personnel are searching for them.

    Capt. Huene is a veteran of the Korean War and has been in the army more than 10 years.

    His father is a former Russian baron and Russian Imperial Army officer who served as a private in the Canadian Army in the Second World War.

    Capt. Huene was born in Estonia and came to Canada with his parents in 1927.

    HE ATTENDED public and high schools at Langley, served in the RCAF during the war and afterwards obtained a B.A. degree at UBC.

    A brother, Rene, attends UBC and another, Victor lives at Newton.

The Whitehorse Star (Whitehorse, Y.T.) - Thursday, October 23, 1958

Ralph Huene and Louis Kuhn missing at Marsh Lake, 1958

    No trace has been found of two Camp Takihini men missing in the dark waters of Marsh Lake since Sunday. Object of an intensive search are Ralph Huene and Louis Kuhn who were last seen about 4 pm Sunday when they left the island near the North end of Marsh Lake. They expected to return shortly but were not seen again.

    Since the discovery of an overturned boat Monday, no trace of clothing or anything else has been found to indicate what happened to the two men.

    Five or six boats are being used in the search, with eight policemen and 12 Army personnel. In addition police are making daily flights over the area. It was an Army chartered plane which spotted the boat Monday, near the Army beach about 300 yards from the highway.

    Last Sunday Captain Huene, his wife Constance and their 4-year old son Harold, with Staff Sergeant Louis Kuhn and his wife Frances, were all at the island in Marsh Lake. The group were working on a cabin there and apparently the two men left the island about 4 o'clock to take a load of supplies and equipment back to their cars. It is thought they reached the lakeshore, because some of the supplies were found there.

    Mrs. Huene and Mrs. Kuhn and the small boy spent the night on the island. Monday morning the Huene's 16-year old daughter Maureen called Army authorities when she became alarmed at her parents' absence. The search for the two men began that afternoon.

    Capt. Huene, 36, came to Whitehorse in November 1956 from Edmonton. Formerly camp commandant, he is now second in command with 19 Company Service Corps there. He has been in the army 10 years and served in the airforce during the war.

    In the Yukon since last year, S/Sgt Kuhn is in charge of the supply depot for 19 Coy RCASC. He and his wife came north from Vancouver. Both men played an active part in community life and were well-known throughout the area.

The Whitehorse Star (Whitehorse, Y.T.) - Thursday, November 6, 1958

Thank you for kindnesses re Ralph Huene and Louis Kuhn, 1958

The Whitehorse Star (Whitehorse, Y.T.) - Thursday, May 28, 1959

Military Honours At Funeral Service

    Full military honors will be accorded the late Capt. Ralph B. Huene, CD, tomorrow. His body was found Sunday afternoon in Marsh Lake. With Sgt. L. J. Kuhn, he had been missing and believed drowned since October 19 last year.

    Services will be held at 2:30 June 5 at the RCAF Protestant chapel with Capt. A. Alfred as officiating clergyman.

    Escorting Mrs. Constance Huene will be Major J. C. Wilson, CD. Official mourners will include:

    Brigadier J. R. B. Jones, DSO, OBE, CD; Commisisoner F. H. Collins, MM and bar, FD; Col. D. M. C. Saunders, CD; Lt. Col. A. M. Davidson; Major J. P. Wiebe, OB; Major H. R. Haines, CD; Major K.R. Kaye, CD; S/L R. C. Staple, CD; W. M. Emery; N. V. K. Wylie: G. W. Shaw; F/Sgt. O. Yendal.

    Pall bearers will be Major J. C. Chartes, CD; Major H. D. Jenner; Major R. A. Auckland; Capt. W. Snell, CD; Capt. C. L. Scot-Brown, CD; Capt. J. C. Preston, CD; Lieut. H. D. Crowell, CD; S/Sgt. J. P. Fitzgerald, RC-MP. 2nd Lieut. R. O. Wright will be medal bearer.

    Interment will follow in the Masonic plot of Whitehorse cemetery. Wallden Funeral Home was in charge of final arrangements.

    The information above is typical of what I normally post about people buried in the cemeteries I'm working on - in this case the Pioneer Cemetery in Whitehorse. In May 2020, though, Ralph Huene's story took a turn in the "small world" direction, so I'm adding to it.

    When I was growing up in the rural Newton area of Surrey, British Columbia in the 1950s and '60s, a family named Huene lived 2 houses away - Vic and Ruth, and children Randy and Sandra. We became close friends. For a few years now, I've been going to ask Sandra, who I'm still in contact with, if Ralph was a relative, but never did. Last week, she contacted me to say that he was her uncle - she found my photo of his grave while searching for his death date. I have a vague memory of the death of her uncle when I was 8 years old, and this connection now was wonderful. Ralph Huene turned out to be a very interesting fellow, and I have expanded on his biography here.

    Baron Ralf Boris von Hoyningen-Huene was born in Estonia on November 20, 1922. On April 24, 1927, he arrived at Halifax, Nova Scotia, with his parents, Hans and Sinaida. They had sailed from Cherbourg, France, on the RMS Asturias, a Royal Mail Lines ocean liner that had just been launched the previous year. The family quit using their baron and baroness titles prior to emigrating to Canada, the spelling of Ralf's name was changed to Ralph, and his middle name was changed from Boris to Barry. The "von Hoyningen" part of their surname was also soon changed. This was all apparently done to "fit in" better in Canada.

    The family settled in Edmonton, then in 1937 they moved to Langley, BC, where Ralph attended high school. In January 1939, The Langley Advance reported that Ralph, now in Grade 11, was playing defence on the Langley High School hockey team. He also became secretary of a Fraser Valley hockey association - the school's first game as a member of that association was against "Trapp Tech" (T. J. Trapp Technical High School), the school my father had graduated from a few years previously.

    In 1939, Ralph also shows up in the area newspapers for another skill. In September, he and another Langley boy won provincial honours in poultry judging. They were supposed to represent BC at the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto in November, but was cancelled when the war broke out.

    Continuing to excel at a wide range of interests, in May 1940, Ralph represented Langley at a public speaking contest. He graduated from Langley High School two months later. In September, he won top honours in poultry judging at the Pacific National Exhibition in Vancouver - this got him a trip to the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto (which was held this year), where he placed third.

    Ralph served with the Royal Canadian Air Force in the Second World War, and after the war, attended UBC. On October 29, 1946, Ralph was again mentioned in The Province: "A newly-formed historical section of U.B.C. Canadian Legion branch 72 will compile a history of the organization - second largest in British Columbia. Bob Elliot, Salmon Arm, and Ralph Huene, are directing the effort." In February 1947, he was one of six signatories of a letter from Fort Camp, U.B.C. to the editor of The Vancouver Sun, denouncing prohibitionists. This letter followed the cancellation of a series of Sunday evening charity concerts sponsored by the University branch of the Canadian Legion due to complaints by the Ministerial Association.

    Ralph joined the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps (RCASC) in 1949 and served for a year in the Korean War. His service number was ZK-3259.

    Ralph and his wife, Constance, had two children - Maureen, born in about 1945 when they were living in the Coghlan area of Langley, and Harold, born in about 1954.

    In 1956, Captain Huene transferred to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, to serve in the Headquarters of the Northwest Highway System (NWHS). Commanded by Brig. H. L. Meuser, OBE, CD, their job was to maintain the Alaska Highway and the Haines Road, as well as 10 airstrips and their access roads. The Whitehorse Star reported that "Capt. Ralph Huene, the Camp Commandant, has duties resembling those of a town mayor, with supervision over domestic and business buildings within the Army area."

    On May 1, 1957, a Yukon branch of the UBC Alumni Association was formed, and Captain Huene was elected president. Anyone who had completed one year at UBC could join the organization, whose aim was to encourage higher education in the Yukon. Three weeks later, he was also elected as First Vice-President of the Yukon Children's Aid Society. In January 1958, the UBC Alumni Association began a drive to raise $7.5 million. "Officials had given up canvassing the frozen Yukon but Capt. Ralph Huene of Whitehorse insisted it should be done and volunteered to do the job. He is interested in seeing more young people from that area come to university. He and his helpers will have to use dog teams in some cases." In February, Captain Huene arranged and coordinated a visit to Whitehorse by Geoffrey Davies, UBC Professor of history and international studies. He presented several talks about higher education, in person and on radio, during his visit.

    On October 19, 1958, the life of Ralph Huene came to an end in the frigid waters of Marsh Lake. On December 15, 1958, Captain Ralph B. Huene was posthumously awarded the Canadian Forces Decoration (CD).

    Although I have not yet found a record of his body being recovered, there is a memorial to Louis James Kuhn (perhaps his grave) in the Brookside Cemetery in Winnipeg.

Marsh Lake, Yukon, showing the island where Huene and Kuhn were building their cabin. Click on the image to open an interactive map. Marsh Lake, Yukon