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Legion host celebrations

The Ponoka Branch #66 of the Royal Canadian Legion celebrated their 80th anniversary last week with a variety of different events including remembering and looking to the future.
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Hugh Greene

The Ponoka Branch #66 of the Royal Canadian Legion celebrated their 80th anniversary last week with a variety of different events including remembering and looking to the future.

“I think the turnout has been excellent,” said Legion president Dorothy Houghton. “It shows we have a very important role in the community not only financially but with our spirit and involvement.”

Vimy

On April 10, the Legion hosted a Vimy celebration/remembrance evening, which saw more than 50 people attend. Houghton was very impressed with the turnout for the evening saying it was beyond her expectation.

The Battle of Vimy Ridge on April 9 to 12, 1917, is the battle that many Canadian historians say defined a nation. More than 15,000 Canadian infantry overran Germans along the front. It was the first time that all four Canadian divisions attack together with men from all over Canada present. Although, capturing the ridge was an important turning point for Canada it was also a devastating loss with almost 4,000 Canadians killed and another 7,000 wounded. The flags outside the Legion were set at half-mast for those who gave the ultimate sacrifice at Vimy.

Ponoka Composite High School teacher Ron Labrie spoke of taking nine PCHS students to Ottawa last spring to re-dedicate the National War Memorial. Senior student Blair Nichols spoke on behalf of all English speaking students across Canada. The students met the Governor General and participated in other events.

Labrie informed those in attendance that PCHS is taking steps to remember, such as dedicating a Hall of Valour in the school for Ponoka and area residents who gave their life.

“It is important to continue to do what you do,” said Labrie to the Legion members and veterans. “We are doing the best to continue the act of remembrance and our younger generation does remember,” he said.

The History Channel documentary ‘1917: The Missing’ was shown, which is about the discovery of two sets of remains found near the Vimy battle site. Labrie explained that one of the remains might have a Ponoka connection. Last year the students going to Ottawa had to research a Canadian in the armed forces. They focused on Private Thomas Lawless who joined the 103 Regiment in Calgary. The group started their research with Lawless because he is a descendant of the late Art McLaren of Ponoka. As their research continued it turned out that Lawless might be one of the missing men found in France over 90 years after the battle. The research is ongoing and the wait continues to see who the other man is.

Games Night

On April 10, the Legion was filled with a fun atmosphere for the Legion’s wine and cheese night. There were approximately 15 to 20 members who came out for a wide assortment of games including darts, crib and pool.

“Those who attended the games night had a lot of fun with some great comradeship,” said Houghton.

It was a night to reflect on everything that the Legion has accomplished in a less formal way and enjoy each others company.

Banquet

A formal night of celebration was held on April 11 at the Legion as more than 150 guests attended the banquet in recognition of their theme of “80 years in Ponoka, Service for Veterans and Community.”

The past Legion presidents and the veterans who were on hand were all recognized after supper as well as guest speaker Stan Moncton who gave the crowd a humourous account of his time in service.

Mayor of Ponoka Larry Henkelman thanked the Legion and its members for improving the quality of life for the citizens of the town.

“As the Legion moves beyond their 80th anniversary your members ensure the care of our veterans and the act of remembrance,” said Henkelman. “As well as the values and principles for good and for the freedoms we enjoy and are proud of.”

County of Ponoka Reeve Gordon Svenningsen was also on hand to congratulate the Legion on their accomplishment of 80 years of service to Ponoka and wished them all the best.

The Legion celebrations had many members out to help them celebrate and show what an important role that the Legion plays in our community.