Excerpt from: A Life of Service
…During the early years of the war, Joe kept his focus on maintaining his medical practice and overseeing his growing family, but by 1942, his sense of patriotic duty began to nag his conscience. The timing was difficult – he had two young daughters at home and a beloved wife who had left the comfort of her family in Toronto to move with him to Saint John. Nevertheless, Joe had been a member of the reserve forces, and his medical skills and his young age made him a highly valuable candidate for the military. He felt that it was his responsibility to enlist in the Royal Canadian Medical Corps (RCMC) to fight for his adopted homeland.
Shortly after his training, Col. Tanzman left his family and headed to the European front in 1942, where he was posted in London’s Canadian Military Headquarters for some time. As his responsibilities increased, Joe served in a corps unit and later as second in command of the 17th Canadian Light Field Ambulance. Following successes in this role, he was given full command of the 10th Field Dressing Station, followed by command of the 14th Canadian Field Ambulance.
Joe’s exemplary military service followed the example he had set in each prior aspect of his life. He continued to show respect for his colleagues and to exhibit his loyalty to them. Many years after the war, a local Saint John journalist interviewed Joe about his experiences in Europe. Joe described his unit’s work: they were responsible for salvaging all medical supplies left behind in German hospitals once they had been cleared by the Allies.
The Germans, who had an obsession with medical science and had invested heavily in technological equipment, often left behind valuable caches. Upon discovery of an entire laboratory filled with high-tech microscopes, Joe was encouraged by a colleague to claim one as his own and take it home to Canada, both as a trophy of war but also because it was a top-of-the-line, modern microscope. Modest and honest, Joe refused, and he turned the cache over to Allied inventory…
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…As the young couple made their way across town, shopkeepers and patrons rushed into the streets to greet the beloved doctor and his wife back home to Saint John. The hero’s welcome was a post-war scene playing out across North America as cities and towns rejoiced in receiving their men back from the battlefields. So many well-wishers stopped Joe and Celia in an outpouring of warmth that it took them “more than an hour to go from Charlotte Street and Union to the City Market,” according to a newspaper article published in the years after the incident. The heartfelt city-wide reception that greeted Joe confirmed unequivocally to Celia that their “home” was in Saint John, not in Toronto, and shortly thereafter, the family took residence for the second time in their Sand Cove Road home.