Dedication to veterans’ memories earns special recognition

·2 min read

It took two years because of COVID-19 restrictions, but the Royal Canadian Legion Upper River Valley District finally extended an official thank you to Jacksonville resident Sheila Sparks for her contributions to veterans' memories.

At the biannual Upper River Valley District meeting held Saturday, April 30, at Woodstock Legion Branch 11, District Commander Lena Levesque presented Sparks with a Certificate of Appreciation.

The award recognized Sparks' effort over more than a year to restore more than 630 veterans' grave markers at 32 Woodstock-area cemeteries. Sparks launched her project in 2020, which marked the 75th anniversary of the Second World War ending.

The Upper River Valley recognition comes less than a year after her efforts received a commendation from Veterans Affairs Canada.

In 2020, as she neared completing her work-intensive project, Sparks explained why she decided to clean, paint and replace crosses on veterans' gravesites.

"I cannot think of a better way for me, as the daughter, sister, aunt, niece, cousin and friend of many veterans, to commemorate this (date)," Sparks said. "What I have done, I have done on my own out of respect for veterans and my appreciation of their sacrifices for our freedom."

While some markers at other cemeteries remain to be done, Sparks' recent health problems reduced her mobility and left her walking with a cane. She said she could no longer get up and down with ease.

After presenting Sparks with her Certificate of Appreciation, Levesque swore in Bonnie LeClerc as the Upper Valley District's new secretary.

Upper River Valley District chairman Ken Sercerchi used the ceremonies before the start of the district meeting to surprise Levesque, now on her third term as district commander, with her past-president medal.

Someone agreeing to serve in the role for two terms is rare; agreeing to serve three times is unheard of, said Sercerchi.

Although she remains in office, he said, Levesque need not wait for the recognition she deserves as he presented her with the medal.

Upper River Valley District Sgt. at Arms Mac Paris of Perth-Andover accompanied the award recipients during the ceremony.

After the COVID-19 disruption, Sercerchi said those in attendance welcomed the long-awaited chance to return to in-person meetings.

Jim Dumville, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, River Valley Sun

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting