South Algonquin remembers at Whitney Cenotaph

Under an overcast sky on Nov. 11, the Township of South Algonquin remembered its six fallen soldiers, all the fallen soldiers that have fought for our freedom over the years and all those who continue to serve, at the Whitney Cenotaph. Dozens of people showed up for this Remembrance Day service, the first held at the Cenotaph at Galeairy Lake Memorial Park.

Remembrance Day services in South Algonquin in the past had been held at the gymnasium of Whitney Public School and St. Martin of Tours Catholic School, but this year was the first year it has been held at the Cenotaph. Five service members from CFB Petawawa were present, as were Mayor Ethel LaValley, Councillor Shawn Pigeon, Councillor Laurie Siydock, Planning and building administrator Tracey Cannon, OPP Constable Greg Hoffman, esteemed veterans and dozens of attendees from the township.

The Whitney Cenotaph honours South Algonquin’s six fallen soldiers, who died defending our freedom during the second World War; Jack Heintzman, Edelore McGuey, Kenneth Shields, Earl Lynch, Cyril Coghlan, and Felix Shalla. The MC of the ceremony, Janet Lynch, from the Royal Canadian Legion, branch 406 in Barry’s Bay, welcomed everyone to the Cenotaph and said the Land Acknowledgement. “We’re here to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country and to honour those who served and continue to serve to this day. We especially remember our six fallen soldiers of the second World War,” she says.

Next, everyone sang “O’Canada,” “The Last Post” was played, there was two minutes of silence and then the Rouse. Retired Captain Richard Ronholm then recited the Act of Remembrance, Amy Lynch said the Commitment to Remembrance, Father Malachy from St. Martin of Tours said a prayer, and then September Eagles recited “In Flanders’ Fields.” Mayor LaValley spoke next, thanking the organizers for the efforts, the veterans, the men and women who continue to serve and said it was nice to be back at the Cenotaph. “This is a day for all of us to appreciate the freedom that we have and to thank all those who fought and gave their lives for the freedom we’re enjoying here today,” she says.

Bart Lynch then sang “A Single Maple Leaf,” a song written by Roy Payne from Nova Scotia. Then, Janet Lynch announced the laying of the wreaths, which included wreaths for the Government of Canada/MP Cheryl Gallant, the Government of Ontario/MPP John Yakabuski, the Township of South Algonquin, Second World War veterans, first World War veterans, Korean War veterans, the Royal Canadian Legion, branch 406 Barry’s Bay, the Silver Cross Mothers, St. Martin of Tours Roman Catholic School, Whitney Public School, the Algonquin Lakeshore District School Board, Whitney Seniors New Outlook, the Algonquin Lunch Bar, the Couples Resort, Charbonneau’s Fresh Mart, McRae’s Mill, the Catholic Women’s League, Whitney and area Algonquins, the LCBO, Four Corners Algonquin, and St. Anthony’s Anglican Church.

Finally, Janet Lynch said a few words in closing, thanking Whitney Public School and St. Martin of Tours Catholic School for hosting the ceremony for many years and helping with the transition to the Cenotaph site, Eric Dufresne and his many helpers who installed the veterans banners around Whitney, and the individuals and families that bought the banners. “Thank you to the Whitney Seniors New Outlook for their support in today’s activities. You’re welcome to enjoy lunch provided at the Seniors Centre after the service today. The seniors have also constructed a beautiful veterans memorial wall at the centre for you to see today. Again, thank you for remembering with us today. Please feel free to place your poppy on any wreath or on the cenotaph as you leave. Lest we forget. Thank you!” she says.

As Lynch mentioned, new this year was the Memorial Wall at the Seniors Centre, paying tribute to the six fallen soldiers and all those from the area who have fought for our freedom. Lynch said the seniors had done a beautiful job. “Those six soldiers are on the wall and they have memorial plaques for [the first World War and the second World War] and the Korean War. It’s well done. It’s very nice to see,” she says.

Elaine Szczygiel with Whitney Seniors New Outlook says that when the veterans’ banners were put up in the village prior to Remembrance Day last year, she thought it would be a great idea to honour all veterans in Whitney in some way at the Seniors’ Centre with an album that would contain all their names and pictures that would always be on display. She said that names were already displayed on local church plaques but only those that were members of that church and she thought it would be nice to have a complete list in a public place that would be available to everyone. “When I shared my thoughts with [Whitney Seniors New Outlook President] Patsy Shalla, she said it was a great idea and that we should get started. The project was agreed on by members of the executive and fundraising began. Online research was done to get as much information available about each veteran, also by reaching out to the families who provided pictures with information they had. Names were collected from various sources of all veterans from Whitney and Sabine who served in the first World War, the second World War and the Korean War, and engraved on plaques to be displayed on a vintage cabinet. Pictures of the six fallen soldiers were framed and hung on the wall above the cabinet. Flags were purchased to stand on each side of the cabinet. Digital photo books contain pictures of veterans and information about each, as well as memorabilia collected,” she says.

Szczygiel said the initiative was not only to remember these brave men but to bring awareness to the younger generations that we must never forget the sacrifice these men made, how young they were when they were called to war to fight for our freedom, the injuries some of them sustained and the six who did not come home when the war ended. “The information and financial support we received from fundraising and donations for this project from the community has been amazing and the comments we have heard are very rewarding to organizers. We extend a huge thank you to everyone who helped make this a success,” she says.

Szczygiel told The Bancroft Times that anyone in attendance at the Seniors Centre for the post ceremony luncheon who made a cash donation to the memorial project was given tickets to win an afghan donated by Paul Towns of Whitby and six organic garlic bulbs donated by Alex Dumas of Whitney. “The lucky winner of the afghan was Winnie Luckasavitch and the winner of the garlic was Viola Laginski.”

Michael Riley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Bancroft Times