Auxiliary keeps bonds of solidarity strong

In the 1960s and ’70s, the Ponoka Legion received support both morally and financially from the Ladies’ Auxiliary.

A photo of Rose Stoddart when she was a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force. The picture was taken sometime between 1943 and 1945. Stoddart joined in order to find some work and took a train ride to Ottawa for military training.

In the 1960s and ’70s, the Ponoka Legion received support both morally and financially from the Ladies’ Auxiliary.

Legion president Stan Orlesky says they are the backbone of the legion and much of their work, although done behind the scenes, is to support Ponoka’s veterans. Rose Stoddart is one of those members who proudly served in the Second World War as a supply technician in Newfoundland in 1943. She worked there for three years and married her husband not long after.

Being a girl from Winnipeg, Stoddart took her first train ride to receive her military training in Ottawa. Both her parents supported the decision as they served in the First World War and she was proud to help.

“It was a good experience. A new experience and I thoroughly enjoyed it,” explained Stoddart.

“Being a girl who lived in Manitoba, it was a very good experience to see the world,” she added.

She joined the Ladies’ Auxiliary 35 years ago to be part of a group that had a common goal. Because her husband stayed with the air force as a supply technician, Stoddart travelled the country in different posts during his service.

First vice-president and two-time president Verna Raycraft joined the auxiliary in 1975, she feels they play an important role supporting the legion.

Without the auxiliary there would have been many times over the past years that the branch would have folded up.”

The ladies were active catering banquets and hosting other fundraising efforts and much of the profits were shared with the branch.

Jessie Vieaux joined in 2000 and wanted to be part of a group that not only enjoys some camaraderie but also supports veterans in long-term care.

“I’ve become very involved and very interested in it,” she said.

Despite an aging membership there is a strong bond with each other, and the Ladies’ Auxiliary will serve at funerals, prepare for the poppy drive and support bursaries with different funds.

“I think the auxiliary is a great sisterhood,” stated Raycraft.

The aim of the group is to help veterans and many members attend the local hospitals to visit those people who do not have family close by.

“We’ve got one lady that visits every month to the veterans at the Alberta Hospital (Centennial Centre for Mental Health and Brain Injury),” said Stoddart.

She used to be the Sgt. at Arms and is now the treasurer, Vieaux is the membership secretary.

All three women have received lifetime memberships with the Ladies’ Auxiliary, which is comprised of 24 lifetime members and 23 regular members. Raycraft says they are always looking at new membership.