SPRING BAY – The COVID-19 pandemic may have forced the annual Royal Canadian Legion (RCL) Decoration Day services to be a slightly smaller than normal ceremony, but it certainly didn’t deter the spirit of all those who participated and the crowd on hand. As usual, the ceremonies tugged at the heartstrings as we remember all those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.
“Good afternoon,” stated Roy Eaton, master of ceremonies. “When we started looking at holding these ceremonies they looked very different. Unfortunately, due to the restrictions placed on us by COVID-19, we will have a very abbreviated ceremony. We would like to thank everyone who is here today to take part.”
Mr. Eaton explained, “Decoration Day received its start on Manitoulin in 1921. 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 World War I. Today, we continue this tradition as we gather to pay respect to those who 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.”
The opening prayer was provided by Acting Chaplain Gary MacPherson, president of RCL Branch 39, Espanola. The Last Post was performed by bugler and comrade Roy Eaton, two minutes of silence and the Lament by piper Dave Beaton, Rouse by bugler Roy Eaton, the latter who also recited the Act of Remembrance.
The Sergeant Charles A. Golden Veterans’ Rifle Team Salute was followed by the laying of the wreaths ceremony starting with Comrade Sue Morin, poppy chair of the RCL Branch 177 Little Current, on behalf of the province of Ontario; District H Comrade Sharleen Sissions Zone H3 Commander on behalf of the zone; RCL Branch 177 President Ruth Eadie on behalf of the branch; Branch 177 ladies’ auxiliary President Linda Bowerman on behalf of the auxiliary; Jim Woods, past president of the RCL branch 514 (Gore Bay), on behalf of the branch.
The Canadian Forces were represented by Comrade Gary Trimmer, president of the ANAVET branch 176, Manitoulin-North Shore; Shipmate Roy Eaton, vice president of the of the Manitoulin North Shore Naval Veterans, who laid a wreath at the Marine Veterans Memorial; 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.
Order of the Eastern Star, Spanish River Chapter No. 237 Associate Matron Mary-Lea Buchan laid a wreath on behalf of the Eastern Star.
A special presentation of $1,000 was made by Worthy Matron Vanesa Jo Woods, Worthy Patron Jim Woods, Association Matron Mary-Lea Buchan and Secretary Alice Varey, Past District Deputy Grand Matron to the Manitoulin Cenotaph Committee Chair Comrade Linda Bowerman.
“Being here today brings forward the reality of this unprecedented time that we are presently experiencing around the world,” said Ms. Woods. “We have come together today to recognize and celebrate the valour, courage and loss of life of our fallen comrades in past conflicts. The importance of their participation was to protect their loved ones remaining behind to live with the freedom and pride of our country we have become accustomed to.”
“In addition to our support here today locally, we are also proud that our provincial governing body and General Grant Council representing numerous countries in the world, providing funding to the War Amps Campaign and Service Dogs Program by giving over $500,000,” said Ms. Woods. “Over the 75 years we have supported a variety of community programs and services that require assistance with local needs; by giving to hospitals, schools, youth and seniors programs including animal care.”
Mr. Eaton noted the funds will be used toward the upkeep of the memorials at the cenotaph.
“Thank you for this super donation,” said Ms. Bowerman, who accepted the cheque along with Jim Corrigan and Lewis Jewell.
The Sgt. Charles A. Golden Veterans Rifle Team provided a 21-gun salute prior to the Benediction by Mr. MacPherson, followed by piper Dave Beaton escorting the gathering to the Memorial Gardens for two very 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, in memory of her mother Comrade Thelma “Tommy” Dagg, who passed away in February.
“Thelma Doris Dagg (Lakin) was born in St. John’s Newfoundland while Newfoundland was still an independent republic (not yet part of Canada). Her mother was a Newfoundlander and her father was from England,” explained Mr. Eaton. “When the call came from England in World War II to assist the King, women were not allowed to join in Newfoundland at that time. Thelma was too young for service anyway.” However, she discussed her desire to serve the King with her father. “It was decided that if she was to emigrate to another country, that Canada was the way to go. Both parents supported her wishes, but she was still too young to join,” said Mr. Eaton. “One part adventurer and one part mischievous, Thelma turned to the priest at St. Thomas Church in St. John’s where she and her family attended and, adding two years to her age, got the priest to write a letter of support for her to bring to Canada.”
“Thelma did indeed emigrate from Newfoundland to Canada landing in Halifax where she immediately signed up with the Canadians on September 22, 1945,” said Mr. Eaton.
Mr. Eaton then introduced Casey and Kirsten Bowerman, who laid a wreath at the foot of the Youth Memorial to conclude the service.