While many Remembrance Day celebrations have been cancelled this year due to COVID-19 restrictions, Tudor and Cashel Township will be having a modified ceremony to commemorate Remembrance Day. The service will now be a drive-in into the Glanmire cemetery, following a route that will take them past the war memorial and out again, so that those restrictions can be followed. A paper bag lunch will be available after the service for all attendees. Another reason to celebrate this year is that it is the 30th anniversary of the township’s war memorial, which was unveiled to great community fanfare back on Nov. 9, 1990.
Marie Whittaker was one of the people closely involved with the organizing, fundraising and acquisition of the township’s war memorial those many years ago. At the time, she had volunteered quite a bit at the school, which now serves as the municipal office. She was also the school secretary, covering an illness leave for the regular secretary in 1990 and 1991.
“Remembrance Day, 1990. We had a gentleman in the community by the name of David Hamel, who was a veteran of World War Two and the Korean War. It was very near and dear to his heart and he tried to enlist underage and kept going back until they finally took him,” she says.
Whittaker says he loved the kids, and came down to the school quite often and spoke to them, and took part in different activities.
“He was quite eccentric, quite an interesting man. He was an inventor, and was trying to invent a way to produce energy in a completely non-polluting way,” she says.
This new science of producing power was allegedly given to Hamel by aliens, who imparted this knowledge to him when they took him aboard their spaceship. He spent his life trying to replicate this advanced power generation technology, as did many others with whom he had contact. Two books, “The Granite Man and the Butterfly” and “The Word Made Manifest through Sacred Geometry” detail his story.
“When he started talking to people, when he’d get into it, the more excited he would get. You couldn’t hold him still. He was quite a character, but he always meant well,” says Whittaker. “He was an incredibly smart man, but a lot of people just didn’t understand him.”
On Remembrance Day, according to Whittaker, the normal thing for kids to do back then was to create their own cenotaph with cardboard boxes and they’d take it out under the overhang at the back of the school, and they’d have the Remembrance Day service there.
“So, after the service, Dave came into the school, marched into the office, stood in front of the desk and slapped down a $100 bill. He said ‘next year, we will have our own cenotaph.’ So, he kind of started it off. The principal at the time was Robert Taylor, so he looked at me and I looked at him and we went from there,” she says.
A committee was formed to look into acquiring a cenotaph for the township. They toured around looking at different monument companies and deciding whether they wanted a cenotaph or a war memorial. They decided to have a war memorial to celebrate the contributions of all participants in Canada’s war efforts, including those serving in the Persian Gulf at that time, versus a cenotaph, which honours the soldiers who have died in service to their country.
Whittaker set out to fundraise for the monument. She contacted a lot of the local legions and even went door to door to raise funds. She says the average donation was about $5, but the legions in Bancroft and Trenton donated $1,000 while the Coe Hill legion gave $500.
“It was truly a community effort raising the money,” she says.
From door to door fundraising they raised $7,437, and the grand total raised was $9,286. In addition to the initial $100, Hamel also donated two loads of gravel for the memorial.
They finally went with Campbell’s Monuments in Belleville, who were very helpful in all respects, especially with the design. After the war memorial was purchased, they had some money left over, which they donated to the cemetery board for maintenance.
Libby Clarke, the Mayor of Tudor and Cashel Township, says that this year due to COVID-19 restrictions, they’ll be having a drive-in Remembrance Day ceremony.
“We will have four airmen this year at the gate handing out the program. They have a hunting camp in the area and are up here this time every year. Next year, we’ll have a more traditional 30 years plus one ceremony,” she says.
Clarke reveals that they will also have a sound system in place that allows people to tune into the ceremony on their car radios. After the service, courtesy of the New Horizons for Seniors grant, they will also be serving attendees a soup and sandwich paper bag lunch.
Whittaker recalls that when it came down to organizing the ceremony, there was a teacher there at the time named Norma Poulain.
“She was an awesome organizer and she took that on. We had a fantastic show here. We were all lined up at the back of the school and we had a piper and several different legion members made it here to represent their different legions. The kids and community members all paraded down the main road into the main gate of the cemetery. We’re hoping that Norma Poulain and Robert Taylor can come back this year for the anniversary. It was quite an event back then,” she says.
That event began with the singing of "O’Canada," followed by a speech from the committee chair, Robert Taylor. Marie Whittaker led off a host of guest speakers that day, including Wanda Donaldson from the township and also formerly a student at Gilmour Public School, Stead Covert (representing Bill Vankoughnet MP), Kathy Wethy (representing Elmer Buchanan MPP). At that point, the Hastings County Board of Education Concert Choir sang Miserere Mei and No Man Is An Island. The superintendent of the HCBE Phil Ainsworth spoke next, followed by Barbara Anderson, trustee with the HCBE and a former student at the school, Ron Bryson from the Royal Canadian Legion in Trenton, Gene Lockhard from the Royal Canadian Legion in Coe Hill, and lastly, Dave Hamel.
The parade on that day was marshalled by sergeant-at-arms Arthur Wile.
Also present was Mr. Aga Smies, commanding officer and four sentries from the Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corps. in Bancroft. Next up was the dedication of the war memorial. Reverend Leslie McMurray was present to provide the call to worship, the opening prayer and the prayer of dedication and the Lord’s prayer.
The memorial was unveiled by veterans David Hamel (Second World War), Edna Davidson Hearns (Second World War),and Donald Rines (Korean War). The widow of William Smith (Second World War), was also present. The veil used to cover the memorial was prepared by Whittaker so they could literally unveil it the next day at the ceremony.
Reverend Jack Morrison read from Joshua 4:1-9, “The Memorial Stones,” and also read another prayer following Whittaker’s address to the crowd.
The HCBE Concert Choir started off the Remembrance Day service by singing “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men” and “In Flanders Fields,” while Art MacDonald from Centre Hastings secondary school played “The Last Post,” followed by a minute of silence and then played “Reveille” on the trumpet. Lockhard then played “They Shall Not Grow Old.”
Donaldson, Covert, Wethy, Anderson, Ainsworth and Hamel then proceeded to lay the wreaths, which was followed by a hymn “O God Our Help in Ages Past.” The pipe band from the Canadian Forces Base in Trenton provided musical accompaniment at intervals throughout the ceremony.
Once the wreaths had been placed, there was a luncheon put on for all those in attendance by Mrs. Freda Smith and several other community members, with a saying of grace provided by Reverend Morrison.
Looking forward, Whittaker and Mayor Clarke say they’d like to make the war memorial more accessible, with stairs leading up to it.
“Last year, we had people lining up the wreaths and it was difficult due to the grass, so they were putting them at the bottom of the slope, but they should be up higher near the memorial. The stairs should help with that,” says Clarke.
While they did have a meeting about raising funds to do this early in the year, COVID-19 interrupted those plans.
“We were kind of winging it in a lot of ways,” recalls Whittaker of the unveiling of the war memorial 30 years later, “We didn’t know exactly what we were supposed to do, but it worked out in the end.”
Michael Riley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Bancroft Times