A Corner Brook man is spending this Remembrance Day reflecting on the lives of two soldiers who had an impact on his own life, even though the two men wore military uniforms nearly a century apart.
The first, Sheldon Peddle's great-grandfather, Ernest Winsor, was a veteran of the First World War, and the second soldier Peddle will be thinking about, Andrew Jesso, was not related by blood but was like a son to him.
Jesso, a member of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, died in a car accident in June, just a few weeks before his 20th birthday.
"It makes, you know, Remembrance Day so much more significant," said Peddle. "It always was a special day for me anyway, but to now have that connection, on two different levels, so many generations apart, a great-grandfather, and someone who I loved as a son, this Remembrance Day will be much more challenging, but much, much more meaningful."
Soldier of the Great War
Peddle remembers learning his great-grandfather was in the war when Winsor gave his young great-grandson a photo of him in uniform.
"It didn't really register with me the significance of it," said Peddle, who was just 11 when his great-grandfather died in 1995 at the age of 86.
But it wasn't just Peddle who didn't know much about Winsor's wartime service. In fact, Winsor's entire family knew very little about his time in the military, because it was a subject the veteran did not discuss.
Winsor's involvement in the war effort only became a topic of conversation in the family about 20 years after his death, when a naval uniform was discovered in an old trunk in the family home in Springdale.
A mystery to unravel
Around that time, the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War was coming up, and The Rooms provincial museum was looking for donations for an exhibit, so Peddle's family offered to lend Winsor's naval uniform for display.
But The Rooms needed to verify that Winsor's uniform was genuine, and the family had no documents to prove the century-old clothing had belonged to Winsor or that he'd even served in the First World War.
The family and The Rooms started investigating but, in spite of searching records, making phone calls, and going through old archives and microfiche, they at first could find no evidence of Winsor's wartime service.
Finally, with just weeks before the exhibit was scheduled to open, Peddle said he got a call from The Rooms to say they'd found his great-grandfather's military records, with enough information to prove that he'd been in the Royal Naval Reserve, so his uniform could be put on display at the provincial museum.
Peddle says seeing his grandfather's uniform at The Rooms made him more emotional than he'd expected, because although he'd already seen it a number of times, he'd never seen it on a mannequin.
"It was really overwhelming when I walked into the exhibit there at The Rooms," said Peddle. "It seemed a little more lifelike or brought to life than laying flat on a table."
Peddle's connection to the second soldier in his life came about in an unexpected way and, coincidentally, around the time when his great-grandfather's uniform went on display.
Peddle befriended and became a mentor to a teenager from Stephenville by the name of Andrew Jesso.
"Over time, he and I developed a very close relationship. You know, he was like a son to me. He called me Dad, lived with me for an extended period of time," said Peddle.
Jesso had many and varied interests and, in 2019, he signed up as a reservist in the Royal Newfoundland Regiment.
"You could almost say he stood a little bit taller when you saw him in uniform," said Peddle.
"And quite often I would make that connection back to my great-grandfather, and just imagine how things have changed in terms of the role of our Armed Forces, but what my great-grandfather would think, that there was now this person that I considered a son, also wearing the uniform."
An unexpected tragedy
Sadly, Jesso's life was cut short by a vehicle accident on the Trans-Canada Highway on June 25, a devastating loss for his family and friends, including Peddle, his family by choice.
When a decision was required about what Jesso would wear in his casket, those closest to him settled quickly on the young man's uniform from the Royal Newfoundland Regiment.
Peddle said the most touching moment at the funeral home was when Jesso's former comrades in the Royal Newfoundland Regiment paid tribute to him, posthumously bestowing upon Jesso the new rank he had earned before he died, that of corporal.
"That ceremony never took place before he passed away. So they actually did it at the funeral home," said Peddle. "So that, when he was cremated, he was cremated with the stripes that reflected his proper rank at the time of his passing."
Honouring their memory
With the shock of losing Jesso still fresh on this Remembrance Day, Peddle is cherishing memories of the young reservist who intended to become a correctional officer for a career.
Peddle is also working to honour Jesso's life by establishing a memorial fund to help families with the cost of enrolling children in skiing, another activity Jesso was passionate about.
And, this Nov. 11, Peddle is remembering not just one soldier, but two.