Decoration Day celebrations a more intimate event this year

Bugler Roy Eaton plays the Last Post as the Sgt. Golden Memorial Rifle Team readies a salute.

SPRING BAY – The martial skirl emitted by Dave Beaton’s bagpipes provided a fitting opening for the Decoration Day ceremonies held at the Manitoulin District Cenotaph and Memorial Gardens this past Sunday, as a small but dedicated crowd gathered on the lawn to witness the laying of wreaths beneath the various monuments and the recitation of memorial benedictions for the fallen.

“Decoration Day received its start on Manitoulin in 1921,” noted master of ceremonies Roy Eaton in his opening remarks. “Veterans and citizens would travel from across the Island starting in their home communities and ending at Spring Bay where a combined service was held. Along the way, people would stop at the Island graveyards to decorate the graves of veterans who had paid the ultimate price in WWI. Today we continue this tradition as we gather to pay respect to those gave their lives in service to their country and to pay tribute to all veterans who fought to ensure the freedom we enjoy in this land. Unfortunately, this year, due to the restrictions placed on us by us COVID-19, we will have a very abbreviated ceremony. I do thank all in attendance today and urge everyone to follow the guidelines of social distancing.”

The opening prayer was delivered by acting Chaplain Gary MacPherson, president of Royal Canadian Legion Branch 39 of Espanola, followed by ‘The Last Post’ of bugler Mr. Eaton and then two minutes of silence.

The silence was broken by a lament performed by piper Dave Beaton followed by ‘Rouse’ again by bugler Mr. Eaton, who then went on to recite the ‘Act of Remembrance.’

Royal Canadian Legion Branch 177 Little Current Poppy Chair Comrade Sue Morin began the laying of wreaths at the foot of the memorial wall on behalf of the Province of Ontario, followed by District H Comrade Sharleen Sissions, Zone H3 Commander on behalf of the zone; Royal Canadian Legion Branch 177 President Ruth Eadie on behalf of her branch; Royal Canadian Legion Branch 177 Ladies Auxiliary President Linda Bowerman on behalf of the auxiliary; the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 514 wreath was laid by past president Jim Woods; and the Canadian Forces wreath was laid by Comrade Gary Trimmer, president of the ANAVET Branch 176, Manitoulin North Shore.

Comrade Kathleen Eshkibok, escorted by US Marine Corps veteran Michael McCormick, laid a wreath at the foot of the Memorial Wall on behalf of aboriginal veterans.

“We stand today on the traditional homelands of the First Peoples of Canada,” noted Comrade Eaton. “Here on Manitoulin the lands of the Ojibway, Odawa and Potawatomi who together formed the Three Fires Confederacy. We strive for respectful partnerships with all peoples of this island as we search for ways to honour this beautiful land together.”

Order of the Easter Star, Spanish River Chapter 237 Associate Matron Mary-Lea Buchan laid a wreath on behalf of that organization.

Vice President Manitoulin North Shore Naval Veterans Shipmate Roy Eaton then laid a wreath at the foot of the Marine Veterans memorial.

A special presentation of a $1,000 cheque by Worthy Matron Vanesa Jo Woods, Worthy Patron Jim Woods, Associate Matron Mary-Lea Buchan and Secretary Alice Varey, past district deputy grand matron to the Manitoulin Cenotaph Committee, was accepted by committee chair Comrade Linda Bowerman.

Kirsten and Casey Bowerman lay a wreath at the Manitoulin Youth’s monument.

Ms. Bowerman thanked the Order, but stressed that she was accepting the cheque on behalf of her hard-working committee members.

The Sgt. Charles A. Golden Veterans Rifle Team provided a 21-gun salute before piper Beaton escorted the assembly across the road to Memorial Gardens for two special wreath-laying ceremonies.

Joyce Daigle laid a wreath at the foot of the Women’s Memorial on behalf of all women who served in the various corps during the wars, but in particular in memory of her mother Comrade Thelma “Tommie” Dagg who passed away in February. Ms. Daigle and her husband Peter unfurled a remembrance banner bearing her mother’s image following the ceremonies.

On behalf of the children of the world, Casey and Kirsten Bowerman laid a wreath at the foot of the Youth Memorial to conclude the day’s events.

Comrade Eaton introduced Stephanie Sissions, daughter of Zone H3 Commander Sharleen Sissions to the assembly. Ms. Sissions is producing a YouTube video of the day’s service to be posted on the Royal Canadian Legion’s channel and Facebook page in a couple of weeks.

Sgt. Charles A. Golden Veterans Rifle Team proceeded on to the Roman Catholic cemetery in Little Current where they fired a salute over the grave of the late Jerry Loosemore later that afternoon.