William John Andrews’ Gravesite Mystery
I am Métis. While at a meeting of the Aboriginal Veterans of Alberta I met Smokey Tomkins, a wheel-chair bound Second World War aboriginal veteran.
During our conversation I told him about the Candlelight Vigil the Ponoka Royal Canadian Legion holds every year in honour of those veterans who are buried in the Ponoka Forest Home Cemetery. He mentioned he had a relative buried here who had seen action in Europe and asked if I would remember him at the ceremony.
When I located the gravesite I noticed that William John Andrews, who was also Aboriginal, had died in 1941. This struck me as odd because at that time any soldier killed was buried in the country in which they died. I assumed he had died in Europe during the Second World War. He had not.
Further checking revealed the truth behind my question; Andrews had served during the First World War and received a shrapnel wound to the head. Upon his return to Canada he lived in the community for a few years but eventually his head wound caused mental instability and he was placed in the Ponoka psychiatric hospital in 1920.
He died on May 19, 1941, one of the many brave men who returned from war a broken person. It is through the sacrifices of men like Andrews that we live in a safe country free from fear and in a democratic society.
On Nov. 11 throughout Canada special remembrance ceremonies are held in honour of those who have served in the military and who are no longer with us. Please spend a few minutes remembering those who have died and suffered in armed conflict throughout the world and also remember those who have served or are presently serving in the Canadian Armed Forces.
It is through these dedicated men and women that we live in a great country, Canada, free from strife and conflict, a place where our children can grow to their full potenetial, where we can sleep peacefully. Thank you soldiers, sailors and airmen for your sacrifice. Thank you William John Andrews. What you have given us is truly appreciated.
Eldred Stamp CD