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In-person Remembrance ceremony at Consecon honours 101-year-old vet

Second World War veteran Joseph Reid, 101, escorted by his son at the Consecon Legion Branch Remembrance Day ceremony.

Story and photos by Tom Harrison
Second World War veteran Joseph Reid was honoured as the oldest veteran present at Consecon’s cenotaph during the County’s only in-person Remembrance Day tribute to Canada’s veterans Thursday morning.

Reid, who celebrated his 101st birthday last April, said he was looking forward to the event. He was remembering comrades as he had served mostly on destroyers and frigates – escorting merchant ships in convoys across the Atlantic to England.

“He’s doing well” said Reid’s son, who shares both his father’s first name and his birthday, pointing out a memorial banner hanging outside the Legion Hall featuring a picture of the veteran as a young man in his naval uniform.

About 200 people gathered under cool and partly cloudy skies. Most maintained social distance and, with a few exceptions, wore masks at the outdoor event, organized by Consecon Legion Branch 509 – the first in two years, given pandemic restrictions on gatherings.

The crowd also included schoolchildren, representatives from Canadian Forces Base Trenton, local politicians, representatives from CFB Trenton, and members of the community.

The ceremony began with a colour guard, before an address by Consecon Legion’s new President, Dave Shepherd, who welcomed the crowd. Legion Secretary Karen White also read aloud John McCrae’s classic poem “In Flanders Field.”

This year also marks the 100th anniversary of the poppy, inspired by McCrae’s poem, which was adopted by the Great War Veterans’ Association, at a Thunder Bay convention held in 1921. The Association was the precursor to the Royal Canadian Legion, which formed in 1925.

Following the anthem, Shepherd made a few remarks before leading everyone in solemn two-minute silence. Though there was no band, after the pause pre-recorded versions of the ‘Last Post’ and a bagpipe rendition of ‘Amazing Grace’ played over loud speakers.

Padre David Holmes led the crowd in a thoughtful prayer of remembrance. Holmes later described his own eight years in the armed forces and reserves, and noted proudly his Cyprus Service medal. Canadians have served in United Nations Peacekeeping duties on the Mediterranean island for more than 50 years.

Sandra King

Local resident Sandra King lay the Memorial Cross at the cenotaph first. Usually referred to as the ‘Silver Cross’, it is a symbol of the sacrifice of widows and mothers who lose a child on active duty. At 26 years of age, King’s own son Lucas is a six-year naval veteran who now serves on the frigate HMCS Fredericton, currently stationed in Halifax.

“I miss him,” she said, adding, “but I’m very proud.”

A highlight of the service was a slow and low flypast by a large military aircraft over Consecon’s downtown, identified a Hercules C-130 from Trenton Air Force Base by Padre Holmes. The aircraft flew so close that its loud roar and vibration briefly drowned out the service.

“It took my breath away and gave me chills,” said King.

Mayor Steve Ferguson with the Prince Edward County wreath

About two dozen additional wreaths were laid by many organizations and individuals, that included Mayor Steve Ferguson, on behalf of the municipality of PEC, the Womens’ Institute, local schools, Beavers and Scouts, and many others, including several recognizing the past service of specific family members.

The event concluded with thanks from the Legion president, and appreciative applause from the audience. Unlike previous years, there was no reception following, given ongoing public health concerns, and the small size of the Legion Hall. But many stayed afterward, greeting friends and neighbours.

“It’s nice to see – people really like the chance to finally get together and talk,” said one man.

Sheila Stene is a local resident who noted the relatively large crowd was not unusual, even though Consecon is a small town.

“There is a lot of community engagement [here],” Stene said. She was thankful that many took time to remember the past service of friends and family, noting her own parents were both enlisted during the war.

“My mother was a WAC… and my father flew aircraft out of Newfoundland.”

There are fewer and fewer who have a direct recollection of many of the events memorialized by Remembrance Day. Centenarian Joseph Reid is one of a declining number of Second World War veterans.

As of March 2020, Veterans Affairs Canada estimated only about 32,000 veterans from the Second World and Korean Wars remain and their average age is in the late 90s. There are no survivors of the ‘Great War’ left.

Canada celebrated the end of the ‘Great’ or First World War with ‘Armistice Day’ starting in 1921. Federal legislation changed the name and the country marked its first ‘Remembrance Day’ memorial in 1931.

Some other Commonwealth nations, such as the United Kingdom and Australia, observe Remembrance Day, traditionally coinciding with the timing of the truce between warring states in 1918, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

Others observe a solemn day, but on different dates. ANZAC Day is observed in New Zealand on April 25, while Poppy Day in South Africa falls on the Sunday closest to November 11.

In addition to Consecon’s Legion, there are PEC branches in both Wellington and Picton. Nationally, the Legion currently has close to 250,000 members across Canada and in branches in the U.S. and Europe.

In total 2.3 million Canadians have served in the country’s armed forces over the years, with more than 118,000 paying the ultimate price, with their lives.

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  1. Hedy says:

    It really is wonderful to see that the 101 year old Vet, Joseph Reid, was able to attend the Remembrance Day Ceremony at Consecon and be honoured in person.

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