LITTLE CURRENT—It was a sold out affair for the 85th anniversary of Branch #177 of the Royal Canadian Legion, Little Current, on Thursday, September 24 with dignitaries, Legionnaires and members of the community gathering to mark this important milestone in an organization that has seen some tough times in recent years.
Members of the Sea Cadet Corps were on hand to serve the veterans with their roast beef meals which was preceded by three toasts: to veterans, on behalf of veterans, and to the Queen. The head table was comprised of Sherry DeJong, padre; Art Buisson, Zone H-3 Commander and Ms. Claudette Buisson; Debbie Menard, Branch #177 president; Flora (Winn) Chartrand, First Deputy Commander; Al MacNevin, Northeast Town mayor; PeeWee Oliver, past president; and Verna Heise, founder of the Ladies’ Auxiliary (who sat at a nearby table with her fellow Auxiliary founding members).
Following the meal, prepared by the Bob and Ursula Paxton and Linda and Ron Bowerman, Comrade John Hodder gave a brief history of the Royal Canadian Legion.
“After the First World War, some 560,000 Canadians returned home with little or no security, work skills or job opportunities,” Comrade Hodder began. “To assist their return to civilian life, The Great War Veterans Association of Canada was formed in 1917. This association and many others that sprang up were ill-equipped to deal with the government and to affect any real change.”
In 1926 these groups came together to form a united front as The Canadian Legion of the British Empire Service League and soon saw 20,000 members in 800 branches across Canada.
Following WWII, the Legion again helped ensure the establishment of fully organizing training, pension and relocation plans for all those coming home.
“Since then, the Legion has become the Royal Canadian Legion and has continued to care for veterans and ex-military members,” Comrade Hodder concluded. “The Royal Canadian Legion’s work to perpetuate remembrance and serve the community has earned them the respect of everyone who enjoys freedom today.”
Branch #177 President Debbie Menard then gave the history of Branch #177 which formed in 1930, four years after the formation of the Canadian Legion of the British Empire Service League. In the years just following the end of World War I, a Manitoulin branch of the Great War Veterans’ Association was formed in Little Current and its charter still hangs proudly on the wall of Branch #177 upstairs hall. “For the next 18 years the members held their meetings in the basement of the Edgewater or sometimes in a back room at the Anchor Inn,” she told the audience.
Comrade Keith Patterson, who served in the Royal Canadian Air Force from 1941-1945, received an honourable discharge and joined Branch #177 in 1948. “He, along with other members, Leonard Campbell, Douglas Fenton and Thomas Boyter, felt that an organization of this importance deserved its own home,” Comrade Menard continued. “They risked all their families had to ensure the survival of the branch. They put all they had on the line and signed a mortgage to build Branch #177’s first home. As members of the Building Committee for Branch #177, they borrowed $500 on bonds held at the bank for safekeeping, took $500 from the Canteen Fund and borrowed $1,000 from the bank to secure payment to Janet Dyell to grant and mortgage the land and premises. During this time of aggravation, Keith became president for the branch. Janet Dyell owned Lots 24 and 25, south side of Vankoughnet Street, where we are now. On March 26, 1957 they took out a bank note and sold two more bonds of $500 to pay the balance owing on the property to the now Janet Dyell-Eno.”
“On October 31, 1973—16 years later—Roy Drolet (bartender), Robert Bunton (stationary engineer), Boyne Heise (town clerk) and Keith Patterson (LCBO manager), as trustees for the branch, formally mortgaged the building and premises for $80,000,” she continued. “Therefore, they were the mortgagors to the Bank of Montreal for the addition to the branch that gave so much additional space both to the upstairs h all and the downstairs club rooms, games room and meeting rooms. As well, there were 19 others who were guarantors for the mortgage: Frank Drolet, William E. Morphet, Charles Joseph Beaudin, R. Albert Bussieres, Sherman J.W. Vanhorne, A. Grenville Green, Richard S. Eade, Donald Patrick, Bernard E. Dunn, Louis A. Emon, Wilburt Oliver, Harold Morphet, Sherman J.W. Morphet, James E. Bond, Frederick Herbert Noon, Roy Green, John L. Ferguson, Robert D. McDonald and William Seitz.”
“On November 7, 1973, the Deed from the Building Committee from the ‘50s, which still included Keith Patterson, was signed over to the new trustees of Branch #177 for $1 as their successors,” the history continued.
“Undoubtedly, Branch #177 had many struggles over the years to survive,” Comrade Menard said. “There were times of great financial burdens that threatened its existence. In recent years the branch again has become financially unstable. However, due to the efforts and endeavours of dedicated members, we are trying tirelessly to overcome our financial burdens by hosting brunches, dinners and fundraising events. We have been receiving tax pardons from the mayor and councillors of NEMI—this greatly helps us to stay alive. Sadly, as we know, so many Legion branches have closed due to financial strain. It is our hope that the community will continue to support the Legion so that it in turn can support the veterans, their dependants, the community and our youth.”
“We are 85 years strong, let us ensure Branch #177 has many more years!” Comrade Menard said to thunderous applause from the audience.
Comrade Roy Eaton then took to the podium, calling on tireless Legion volunteer and Ladies’ Auxiliary member Linda Bowerman to the fore. He explained to the audience that Comrade Bowerman, among her many other duties with the Legion, took on the role of creating a scrapbook of all of the Legion’s endeavours. Last year this scrapbook was sent on to the provincial command where it placed second. It was given a valuation at the high level and, when it returned to Comrade Bowerman, she dutifully read over all the notes and vowed to make her next scrapbook even better, which she did. Comrade Eaton was pleased to announce that this year, Comrade Bowerman placed first in all of Ontario with her Legion scrapbook and presented her with a plaque for her efforts.
Comrade Tom Stephens was then asked to come forward to present the Legionnaire of the Year Award to Comrade Ron Bowerman, Ms. Bowerman’s husband.
“Comrade Ron has been a Legion member for 16 years,” the president noted. “He has been helping with Legion endeavours and functions for all of those years. He has spent a tremendous amount of time running errands, doing yard work here and at the Cenotaph, assisting with building maintenance, cleaning the hall,” Comrade Menard added, listing many more of his volunteer efforts.
“He must be commended for his tireless efforts and endeavours for this Legion, with his loving wife Linda by his side, or should I say her guidance. We thank you, Ron, for your commitment and dedication to our branch.”
The event concluded with the presentation of certificates and pins.
There were seven recipients for certificates of appreciation, awarded by Comrade PeeWee Oliver, to: Jim Corrigan, Comrade Ruth Eadie, GG’s Foodland, Barb Jordan, Matt Madahbee, Three Cows and a Cone, Aline Stephens and Orr’s Valu-Mart.
Six Certificates of Merit were awarded, also by Comrade Oliver, to: Mike Cooper, Roy Eaton, Jeff Francis, McDougall Energy, Patricia Norton and Orangutan Tree and Yard Service.
Comrade Roy Eaton was called upon for the pin presentations. Life Members: PeeWee Oliver, 20 years; and Joe Williamson, 30 years.
Ordinary Members: Betty Boreham, 55 years (57 years of service); Gary Trimmer, 50 years; Linda Kelly, 40 years; Dennis Dockrell, 30 years; Rick Gjos, 30 years; Lewis Jewell, 30 years (31 years of service; Jim Nevills, 30 years (31 years of service); Mike Easton, 25 years (26 years of service); Blair Sullivan, 25 years (27 years of service); Paul Abbott, five years; Allan Mitchell, five years; and Brent Nevills, five years.
Associate Members: John Hodder (40 years (42 years of service); Tom Stephens (40 years (41 years of service); Butch Williamson, 40 years (41 years of service); Chris Dunlop, 35 years (36 years of service); Bone McDonald, 35 years (37 years of service); Mike Cooper, 30 years (33 years of service); Terrance Hari, 30 years (32 years of service); Heather Hutchinson, 30 years (31 years of service); Kim Jewell, 30 years (31 years of service); Ken Rowe, 30 years (33 years of service); Joan Cote, 25 years; Matt Cote, 25 years; J.W. Jim Ferguson, 25 years (27 years of service); Kevin Hutchinson, 25 years (28 years of service); David and Nancy Patreau, 25 years (26 years of service); Jim Hodder, 20 years (21 years of service); Robert McCallum, 20 years; Cheyenne Migwans, 20 years (21 years of service); Linda Bowerman, 15 years; Ron Bowerman, 15 years (16 years of service); Wayne Debassige, 15 years (19 years of service); Perry Lovelace, 15 years (16 years of service); Harold Morphet, 15 years (18 years of service); J. Norris Nevills, 15 years (17 years of service); Lisa Wahamaa, 15 years (18 years of service); Gary Green, 10 years (13 years of service); Lynn Hughson, 10 years (14 years of service); Debbie Menard, 10 years (11 years of service); and Sue Morin, 10 years.
Affiliate Voting pins were awarded to: Mike Aelick, 15 years; Spike Eadie, 15 years (15 years of service); Stacey Eadie, 15 years, Gord Keatley, 15 years (18 years of service); Rick McCutcheon, 15 years (17 years of service); Ray Rivet, 15 years; Ruth Eadie, 10 years (14 years of service); Barry McConnell, 10 years; Luc Noel, 10 years; and Bill Strain, five years (eight years of years).