They will remember our veterans at Ontario's adult lifestyle communities
Adult lifestyle communities across the province commemorate the service of veterans, on November 11, in a variety of ways
“The eleventh hour; those minutes of silence we all seem to hear.”
Harry Smith says this line – which he calls “profound” – sums up his feelings about Remembrance Day. It was penned by his friend, Mike Walker, who has written other poetry that Smith has used in annual Nov. 11 services at Park Place, a Parkbridge adult lifestyle community in Wasaga Beach.
Smith is a strong believer in the importance of Remembrance Day ceremonies, something he says goes back to when his teenage years in the mid-fifties. He worked for a shoemaker who fled Yugoslavia just before the outbreak of the Second World War and came to Canada, where he joined the Allied Forces.
“He said to me ‘you must never forget what happened’,” Smith says. “I took it to heart. For me, it’s the most important day of the year.”
When he and wife Judy moved into Park Place 10 years ago, they were dismayed to discover that the Wasaga Beach community did nothing to mark the occasion on Nov. 11. Ceremonies there were held the previous Sunday.
“That’s well and good but I felt there should be something happening at 11 o’clock on Remembrance Day at the cenotaph,” he says.
So, Smith decided to organize a service at Park Place and has been doing it for some eight years, welcoming not just community residents but anyone from the surrounding region. Forty turned out the first year. The second year, there were 80 and the third year 160. Last year more than 200 attended.
“It speaks well for people thinking about who’s really responsible for the lifestyle we enjoy,” Smith says.
Remembrance Day is an occasion that resonates with the populations of Ontario’s adult lifestyle communities, which include veterans and, increasingly, children of veterans, who served in World War II, Korea and subsequent peacekeeping missions.
An ad hoc FYI survey to determine how the day is commemorated reveals common threads and unique spins to the traditional cenotaph services.
At Park Place, the ceremony at Ottawa’s War Memorial is broadcast on a big-screen TV in the community centre, followed by readings and videos from a collection that Smith has amassed over the years.
A popular feature is a memorabilia exhibit – pictures, flags, medals and such – organized by a couple of the residents. Smith says that one year a resident brought a large flag to be signed by everyone, which he then sent overseas to his two sons, who were serving in Afghanistan. He now brings it back each year to display.
Sandycove Acres, Ontario’s oldest and largest lifestyle community, has its own Veterans Club, formed in the late seventies and now comprising more than 200 members, including 48 veterans and 44 spouses of veterans.
About 300 people generally attend the Nov. 11 service, says Major Ted Gemmell, an 18-year Sandycove resident and current club president. Gemmell spent 25 years in the Canadian Forces Reserves.
Veterans from the community, carrying flags and colours, lead a short parade to the cenotaph, in front of The Hub, the largest of Sandycove’s three recreation centres. There, an outdoor service, involving contingents of local Sea Cadets and Army, Air Force and Navy League Cadets as well as boy scouts, includes the laying of wreaths – “often upwards of 20 or more” Gemmell says – by individuals and municipal, provincial and federal politicians. This is followed by an indoor service of music and reflection.
The cenotaph dates to 1982, when community veterans decided to erect a memorial “in honour of those men and women who paid with their lives so that we could live ours in freedom," Gemmell relates. It includes a German field gun from World War I and a memorial stone, which was replaced this year and dedicated in a special ceremony Nov. 1.
The Grand Bend community of Grand Cove holds its annual service – a Military Salute Day with a Marching of the Colours by cadets from the Exeter Unit, a reading of In Flanders Fields, introduction of community veterans and a procession to place poppies on the Remembrance Table – the week prior to Remembrance Day. The date this year is Nov. 3, 2-4 p.m. in the clubhouse.
Each year it takes a different theme, says Darlene McKaig, president of the Homeowners Association and this year’s convener.
The 2013 theme, she says, is “Why Do We Need Veterans?”
In addition to other speakers, McKaig will answer that question by “telling a story about the various wars and conflicts we’ve had from 1812 to the current day.”
Elaborating on the theme, she says: “We need them today, not just for (circumstances like) Afghanistan, but as a deterrent. And, they aren’t just fighting wars. They go on rescues, they assist in times of disaster, all life-risking tasks.”
In other areas: At Wilmot Creek, a community on Lake Ontario at Bowmanville, residents hold an evening service on Nov. 11, with representation from local and regional politicians and a Colour Guard from the Bowmanville Legion, says Bill Stark, director of group activities for the Wilmot Creek Home Owners Association. Wellington On The Lake residents participate in the Town of Wellington parade and service, says sales manager Brenda Stanley. "A wreath is placed by a member of our community (where) many residents are veterans and retired from military service," she says. "Since we are close to Trenton Air Base, we have representation from our local military community."