On Friday, he wasn't alone.
He and about 350 relatives of the 118 people who died in the Nov. 29, 1963, crash of a Trans-Canada Air Lines flight came together in the community where it happened to mark the tragedy's half-century anniversary.
People who had never met but were connected through sorrow listened as the names of the victims were read aloud in a private service.
"They're spending time talking and getting to know each other and remembering their loved ones," Page said in an interview Friday. "I hope it's a time of healing."
The world was still reeling from the assassination of then-U.S. president John F. Kennedy when witnesses reported seeing Flight 831 catch fire and then explode shortly after takeoff from Montreal's Dorval airport.
A federal Transport Canada investigation reported in 1965 it couldn't determine an exact cause because the DC-8 jet, the biggest in the airline's fleet, had disintegrated.
Page was 16 when his father John, a vice-president with H.J. Heinz of Canada, boarded the flight.
John Page, 48, grew up in Toronto and was an accountant by training. After service as an air force navigator in the Second World War, he joined Heinz and worked his way up the ranks, being named vice-president of sales and marketing in 1963.
"He was on his first trip to the Maritimes," Robert Page recalled. "Coming back was when he was killed."
The aircraft crashed around 6:30 p.m. in a muddy field near Ste-Therese-de-Blainville. It created a crater about 45 metres long by 22.5 metres wide. Debris was spread across an area 800 metres long and 75 metres wide.
The impact of the crash was reported to have shattered windows in the area and knocked over household items.
"It fell into a field that was quite marshy," said Martin Rodgers, a local historian. "It was cold, it was raining."
Hunks of metal littered the ground and what appeared to be clothing hung from tree branches.
A cacaphony of sirens wailed along the Laurentian highway adjacent to the crash site as rescuers rushed to the scene. Fires crackled in the wreckage.
Areas turned into a swamp by the heavy rains of the previous days complicated the work of rescue workers, who had to wait for heavy machinery to open a path from the main road to the crash site.
Then the hunt began for not only bodies but pieces of the aircraft so that a cause could be determined.
Rodgers also said no intact body was found either, only parts. There were 111 passengers and seven crew aboard the flight. Authorities scrambled to get organized.
"In what was the parish of Ste-Therese-de-Blainville, there was one police officer, Mr. Aubertin, who somehow maintained security," said Rodgers, who also oversees recreation for the town.
"But he was quick with people who tried to rob the dead and it's said he even had to fire a few shots into the air to deter some people from making off with watches or wallets."
There have been only two air crashes in Canada more devastating than the one in 1963.
On Dec. 12, 1985, the crash of Arrow Air Flight 1285 in Gander, Nfld., left 256 dead. Swissair Flight 111 crashed in the Atlantic Ocean off Nova Scotia on Sept. 2, 1998, killing 229.
Page, whose family was living in Leamington, Ont., at the time, says he grappled with his father's sudden death for years and that five years ago he sought to find out how others were handling the tragedy.
"The numbers were so overwhelming that I think that people felt to some extent connected but at the same time, in 1963, isolated."
He explained that while the crash happened in Quebec, most of the victims were from Ontario and the West.
"The families really were separated and didn't grieve together particularly," he explained. "There's been a complete range of emotions that I've experienced from people who have said to me 50 years after the fact 'I can't talk to you. It's still too sore, it's too raw a memory' — (compared) to others who are here today to join together and remember."
Page has since helped compile the story of the crash and its victims in a book, "Voices From A Forgotten Tragedy." There's also a website dedicated to the crash.
Page recalled that he wondered about his own grief for a long time.
"I didn't feel I had grieved appropriately. I didn't remember a lot of tears and, in looking back now, I've come to realize that what happened was I emotionally shut down. (It took) this project and about 48 more years for me to experience that emotional grief and release."
The crash has also marked the community where it happened.
Blainville Mayor Richard Perreault said in a message on his city's website that the memory of the crash is still fresh for many and he has heard from people who tell him about a friend or relative who witnessed rescue efforts.
Rodgers echoed the mayor's feelings, saying that any resident who was around at the time has a memory of the historic incident, regardless of age.
"In one way or another, everyone has been pretty much touched by that event and, even today when we talk to people, memories are quite vivid."
An exhibit on the crash is also on display at the Joseph-Filion museum and relatives of the victims will be able to to take shuttle buses Saturday to see the crash site and a memorial plaque installed at the local cemetery.
Trans-Canada Air Lines, which later became Air Canada, created a memorial garden near the crash site. It can be accessed via the Ste-Therese parish cemetery.
For Page, however, the crash didn't define his father, who he said "enjoyed getting out and playing some golf and spending time with his family on his summer holidays.
"He was a great guy. I have lots of good memories."
(With files by Caroline St-Pierre)
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