Sombre Remembrance Day celebrated by many in Penetanguishene

To glance upon it, there were children playing and residents holding their coffees close on an unusually warm mid-autumn day. At the centre of that was the Penetanguishene cenotaph and the four Vigil Party guards attentive at each corner, heads lowered, weapons pointed to the grass.

Remembrance Day ceremonies were held at the Penetanguishene cenotaph at Memorial Park, 121 Main St., beginning with a march of bagpipes and service members from blocks away. Their arrival onto the ceremonial ground was met with quietude from the large number of gatherers, who came to show support for veterans as well as those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in serving their country.

Tim Sample had visited the Barrie ceremonies in previous years, but had arrived early for the Penetanguishene event.

“It’s very important to me,” said Sample. “My dad and my uncles fought in the Second World War. I try to come out and commemorate the sacrifices they made over the years. My dad was in the military for over 30 years, and this is just an important time for me.”

Along the front of the cenotaph itself, many tens of wreaths had been placed hosting names of sponsoring individuals and businesses, and in memoriam of those deserving of the acknowledgement. Several more rested in wait against the cold boundary rail.

The Vigil Party had arrived half an hour before formal proceedings, with the four members quietly directed to the inner corners of the cenotaph. Said Sgt. Jeff Kalbhenn, Commander of the Vigil Party, they were all candidates on ammunition technician courses attending the Canadian Forces Logistics Training Centre in Borden; their vigil was to guard the cenotaph during the proceedings as per tradition.

Elsewhere, Sandy James was helping Todd Berriault keep tabs on his son Beau, who was running amok as well as a toddler’s legs could sprint in the cenotaph-adjacent and fenced-in tennis court.

“We’re just trying to get my family used to coming,” said James, “because my father is a vet, his father is a vet and his twin brother was a vet – and the twin brother never made it home. We come every year to represent.”

At 11 a.m., the ceremony began. Bagpipes were played, prayers were held, the national anthem was broadcast along with the iconic trumpet call The Last Post.

When it came for the laying of the wreaths, several members of the community were called upon to retrieve the numerous rings to place before the cenotaph.

The Silver Cross Mother wreath was placed by Linda Reynolds; Leslie Stroud placed the provincial government wreath; the municipal wreath was placed by Coun. Jill St. Amant.

The Canadian Armed Forces wreath was presented by members of CFB Borden. Ladies Auxiliary Branch 68 was placed by Mary Lefaive; David Samson, past-president of Legion Branch 68, placed the wreath in memory of all First World War veterans. Marcel Duval’s grandson A.J. laid the wreath in memory of all Korean War veterans; the Cold War wreath was laid by Ron Gonzales; and Nicki Cook placed the Afghanistan wreath.

On conclusion, the crowd applauded all service members who filed onto Poyntz St. and slowly marched their way to Legion Branch 68. Vehicles in the streets and lots turned off their engines and waited with patience until the last person was cleared. The Vigil Party concluded their duty, and the crowd dispersed to continue on with their lives of freedom.

Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, MidlandToday.ca