PROVIDENCE BAY—The steady drumbeat of the torrential downpour striking the roof of the Providence Bay Arena gave proof to the wisdom of the Island’s Royal Canadian Legion’s decision to move this year’s Decoration Day services from the outdoor venue of Memorial Gardens to drier quarters.
The Legionnaires and visiting dignitaries paraded into the arena under the direction of parade marshal Ron Steeves at 1 pm into the capable hands of Master of Ceremonies Comrade Roy Eaton, who delivered the opening remarks.
“I welcome and thank all of you for your attendance here today, to pay your respects to all those men and women who have served in time of war and in peace. Each year, Branch 177 Little Current and Branch 514 Western Manitoulin alternate hosting this special day to pay homage to the men and women who served in our country’s forces and those of our allies,” said Comrade Eaton. “Through their courage and sacrifice, these men and women have helped to ensure that we live in freedom and peace, while also fostering the same around the world.”
Branch 514 Chaplain Reverend Erwin Thompson gave an invocation to open the services.
“Creator God, we gather on these sacred grounds giving thanks for all who have contributed to the making of this country Canada. Over the centuries many different nationalities have come, joining with the First Nation peoples bringing their cultures.
“We give thanks for the service personnel, who have served not only in Canada but throughout the world and for what each has brought to this great home we call Canada. Each has contributed to the protection of our rights to freedom and peace.
“We remember today those who are currently serving in so many ways—whether it is in natural disasters at home or in a foreign country. They make us proud of what they contribute.
“There have been so many conflicts where so many have not returned home. Today we remember three soldiers who served in World War I at Hill 70, who lost their lives and whose remains were just found in France in the last few years. Our prayers are with the families of Private Henry Edmonds Priddle (who has Manitoulin connections), Private William Del Donegan and Sergeant Archibald Wilson, we thank them for their sacrifice and may the families find comfort in knowing where their beloved is going to be buried.
“Today we lay wreaths in honour and gratitude of the sacrifices of life, body, mind and the family and friends left behind by all who have served or are serving. May their sacrifice never be forgotten. In your Holy Name we give thanks and remember. Amen.”
The singing of ‘O Canada’ was led by the Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corps, Manitoulin #328.
Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing MP Carol Hughes delivered regrets from Algoma-Manitoulin MPP Mike Mantha and spoke on the obligations the nation owes the veterans who have served the country in past and current operations, concluding with an abbreviated version of the Prayer of Remembrance.
Zone H3 First Deputy Lynne Barron brought greetings on behalf of District H and Zone H3 before the gathering began a traditional Legion opening ceremony including the Last Post, followed by one minute of silence broken by ‘The Lament’ played by Pipe Major Stewart Gagan. An impressive rendition of ‘Rouse’ was then played by bugler Petty Officer Second Class Abbie Harper of the Manitoulin Sea Cadets Corps.
Comrade Roy Eaton recited the ‘Act of Remembrance’ with the familiar refrain: “we will remember them” replied by those in attendance.
“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.”
The laying of the wreaths then began, with Silver Cross representative Colleen Caselton, whose son Jeff is serving in Lativa as part of the NATO forces, laying wreath on behalf of mothers of service personnel.
Ms. Hughes lay both the Canada and the Ontario Government wreaths.
Corporal Kevin Smith lay the Canadian Armed Forces wreath.
District H and Zone H3 First Deputy Lynne Barron lay the wreath on behalf of the district and zone.
With June being National Indigenous History Month Comrade Eaton brought special attention to the history of those Indigenous people who stepped up to serve Canada, despite the discrimination they faced through the years. “Indigenous Peoples in Canada have fought on the front line of every major battle Canada has been involved in and have done so with valour and distinction,” said Comrade Eaton. “It is estimated that 7,000 First Nations People served in the First and Second World Wars and the Korean War; an unknown number of Métis, Inuit and non-Status also served. However, it was not until 1995, 50 years after the Second World War that Indigenous peoples were allowed to lay Remembrance Day wreaths at the National War Memorial to remember and honour their dead comrades. Today I would ask Kathleen Eshkibok to lay the Aboriginal Veterans wreath.”
The wreath on behalf of Afghanistan Veterans was laid by past Branch 177 President Debbie Menard; Korea War Veterans by Corporal Kevin Smith; Peacekeepers by Lewis Jewell; Royal Canadian Legion Branch 177 by President Ruth Eadie; Little Current Royal Canadian Legion Branch 177 Ladies Auxiliary by Linda Bowerman; Gore Bay Royal Canadian Legion Branch 514 by President Carrie Lewis; Manitoulin North Shore Naval Veterans by President Bryan Chapelle with escort secretary treasurer Bill Ranich; Navy League Manitoulin President Bob Jewell laid the wreath on their behalf; Merchant Navy wreath was laid by Shipmate Bob Yrcha; Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corps Manitoulin 348 wreath was laid by newly installed Corps Commander Naval Cadet Officer Sylvain Boucher; and on behalf of the Manitoulin-Espanola OPP Detachment and the UCCM Tribal Police Service retired Sgt. Don Watson; Municipality of Central Manitoulin by Mayor Richard Stephens (three of his father’s older brothers served overseas in the Second World War, returning safely home); Masons of Doric Lodge 455 Little Current was laid by Past District Deputy Grand Master Keith Legge; Sudbury Shrine Club President Dave Hodgins Escort Vice President Rob Fleming; Haweater Unit of the Sudbury Shrine Club by Nobles Ed Elchyshyn, Moe Keller and Ted Taylor; Little Current and Sheguiandah United Churches by Pastor Paul Allard; Children of Manitoulin by Sadie Hardy, granddaughter of President Carrie Lewis; Linda Bowerman in memory of Norman Lockyer; Mel Bowerman Jr. in memory of Mel Bowerman; Toots McDermid in memory of Hugh and John Bailey and an unidentified woman on behalf of Don Cada; and the Women’s Memorial wreath was laid by Leila Thureson.
At the close of the ceremonies, Linda Bowerman and Donna Foster of the Manitoulin Cenotaph Committee presented a special award of gratitude to the Sudbury and District Pipe Band, accepted by Pipe Major Stewart Gagnon, for 80 years of dedicated service to Decoration Day, continuing a tradition that was begun in 1938.
Comrade Bowerman then outlined the many renovations that were made possible at the Memorial Gardens Cenotaph site thanks to a $5,060 Canada 150 grant from FedNor, work that was enhanced by generous donations from Witty Memorials, Bond’s Plumbing and Home Hardware. Comrade Bowerman also gave special gratitude to the Municipality of Central Manitoulin for the upkeep of the grounds and covering hydro costs for the site.
“We once again thank all who joined us today in this tribute to our veterans. We invite everyone back to Branch 177 in Little Current for refreshments and comradeship following the services. Everyone including children are welcome,” said Comrade Eaton at the close of the ceremonies. “During the March Past, the Salute will be taken by Zone H3 1st Deputy Commander Lynne Barron and Comrades Blair Sullivan who will be 94, Dennis Dockrell who will be 94 and Alan Tustian who be 99, each of them in the next few months.”
A benediction was then given by Rev. Erwin Thompson, followed by the Manitoulin Sea Cadet band playing ‘God Save the Queen’ and the marching off of the colours.
Manitoulin Sea Cadets escorted each of the wreath layers and were supervised by Civilian Instructor Kristy O’Brien.
Following the ceremonies, all were invited to a reception luncheon at the Little Current Royal Canadian Legion Branch 177 hall in Little Current.