It was standing room only at the Ponoka Legion Branch No. 66 Nov. 11, as community members poured in to pay their respects to Canada’s fallen and to remember, with some even sitting on the piano bench and a few standing by the door.
A number of dignitaries and community groups laid wreaths, including representatives of MP Blaine Calkins and MLA Ron Orr, as well as Victim Services, the Ponoka Drop-in Centre, Ponoka Secondary Campus (PSC), St. Augustine School, the air cadets and Bruce Harbin, president of the Ponoka Stampede Association.
Rob McArthur, Pastor of Home Church Ponoka, offered a prayer and read scripture passages.
Ron Labrie, a teacher at PSC and advocate for active remembrance, was the guest speaker.
“Remembrance can not just be a kind gesture on the eleventh month, on the eleventh day, at the eleventh hour,” said Labrie, adding remembrance should be an ongoing, concerted effort of good citizenship.
Labrie told about PSC’s Broncs World Tour, and how the students research the biography of a solider for a whole year before visiting their grave or memorial site, which is always a “highly emotional” and rewarding experience.
Labrie recounted the story of his visit with 30 students to honour a fallen Ponoka airman, Pilot Officer George Cameron.
In Aug. 2019, the group travelled to the community of Bois-Heroult, France, for the 75th anniversary of the crash of Cameron’s Lancaster bomber on Aug. 18, 1944.
When they arrived to hold their memorial, they were met with resistance from the local mayor, who threatened to have Labrie arrested. In the end, after several phone calls, the mayor relented and the memorial went ahead as planned.
Adrien Jobin, a member of the French Resistance who had been taking care of the monument, which is in Mont Rouvel, down the road from Bois-Heroult, was given honourary Ponoka citizenship.
After Labrie concluded speaking, everyone sang “We’ll Meet Again,” followed by the benediction, “God Save the Queen,” and the marching off of the colours.
Dignitaries then placed wreaths on the Legion’s cenotaph outside as the crowd departed.