These quiet fields of inscribed stones and tended grasses are sacred places in our communities. When you enter these quiet enclaves you walk through a sort of time capsule bringing forth those old settler families memorialized on the slabs of Canadian granite and limestone.
These slabs hold the historic legacy of the community. The information stored is of ongoing value to put names to, to remember and honour the people who broke the ground and built their life in Westmeath Township.
Old cemeteries around Ontario were being neglected and some of the oldest stones had been destroyed or had their inscriptions eroded. Volunteers undertook the huge job of photographing and indexing all the monuments. The digital pictures were taken to show the critical historical inscriptions before they were lost. These online photographs become an important record of names and dates of birth and death as well as family relationships (wife, son etc.).
These trios of slabs, mostly dating from the 1880’s, are found in the Greenwood Cemetery and memorialize some early members of the Robinson, Whitmore, Kenny, McDonough, Patterson, McGonagal and Tario families.
A huge amount of commitment and volunteer labour as gone into the digitized graveyard galleries now available online. Sadly the best Canadian site called Gravemarker Gallery, headed by Murray Pletsch has been taken down. Thanks to him and his volunteers for all their work.
Now Find a Grave, owned by Ancestry.ca, has public volunteers submitting photographs. Below are links to the alphabetized websites of surnames and photos for Historic Westmeath Township.
The Township of Westmeath Cenotaph is situated in a manicured small park setting on Synton Street, Westmeath Village, and its beauty draws you in to pause and reflect.
It is inscribed: “Dedicated to the Memory of the Men and Women of this Township Who Helped Preserve a Free Nation. World War I 1914 – 1918, World War II 1939 – 1945, Korean War 1950 – 1953. Lest We Forget.”
The Reverse: On the monument’s reverse side, the names of the fallen are inscribed. “In Memory of Those Who Have Made the Supreme Sacrifice.” 14 men in World War I and 25 men in World War II.
On Saturday August 9th 1997, the citizens of Historic Westmeath Township gathered to remember the 39 service men killed in action during the past three wars from the Township. The Cobden Sun coverage of this special commemoration of 50 years from the end of World War II is available here in digital format thanks to the loan of the original newspaper clippings by the Upper Ottawa Valley Genealogical Group.
In this Cobden Sun commemoration edition the names of two Gervais men were reversed. The extreme right photo in second row should read Renaud Gervais, 1920-1944, and the photo three in from right end in second row should read Harry Gervais, 1925-1945.
The photo of the 1931 Westmeath Village Public School No.2 children is particularly poignant; showing nine youngsters who would go to war and return, and three who would die in action for their country.
In 2005 at the Westmeath Public School the Grade 7/8 students in Mr. Mike Popke’s history class were tasked with interviewing and researching local men or women who served. The students interviewed either the veteran, if available, or a relative or friend of the soldier. The war stories were mounted on Bristol board and these panels were shown to the public at the 2006 100th Anniversary Celebration of the Westmeath Public School. The panels are annually posted in the Westmeath Rec Centre Hall each Remembrance Day. The panels were all scanned or transcribed and are here below.
Even the smallest place sacrificed its young men and women to fight, and in some cases die, overseas. Historic Westmeath Township was no exception.
Over 600,000 men and women enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) during the First World War (1914-1918) as soldiers, nurses and chaplains. Few families weren’t touched by the loss of a loved one as a result of this “war to end all wars”. These young people fell in foreign fields and were buried overseas; 60,000 young Canadians in total. Their remains were not returned home as is the norm today for a fallen soldier.
Over 1,159,000 men and women served in the Canadian Armed Forces during the Second World War (1939-1945); 44,093 lost their lives in the various theatres of war. They also were not returned home but were buried in those far off countries and honoured by the local peoples. The sites of the Canadian overseas memorials and graves are considered Canadian soil and so in that way they have “come home”.
All the Canadian war dead are listed in the Books of Remembrance held in the Main Block Peace Tower of the Parliament Buildings, Ottawa. These records are available online: http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/collections/books and http://www.parl.gc.ca/About/Parliament/Publications/Memorial/Memorial-e.asp
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission ensures that 1.7 million people who died in the two world wars will never be forgotten. The CWGC Homepage http://www.cwgc.org/ offers both searches by surnames and searches by Cemeteries. The Register records details of Commonwealth war dead so that graves or names on memorials can be located.
The Reading of the Roll at the Remembrance Day Ceremony, 11th November, 2010, was very special. The story of lost medals honouring two brothers, who are named on the Westmeath Township Cenotaph adjacent to the Westmeath Recreation Centre, had recently come to light.
Carson and Warrington Foy, sons of John and Mabel Foy, had both died in WWII, just weeks apart. As fate would have it, both men died by friendly fire incidents.
On July 25, 1944, Pilot Officer Carson Foy, a tail gunner with the Royal Air Force’s 61st Squadron, was on a raid of St. Cyr near Paris, when an aircraft above them dropped its bombs too early. One bomb sheared Pilot Officer Foy’s gun turret off, and the 26 year old airman fell to his death. Carson Foy is buried at the Commonwealth War Grave at Yvelines, France.
A few weeks later on August 14, 1944, Gunner Warrington Foy, deployed with the 6th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, died when allied aircraft missed their intended targets and bombed their own lines. Warrington Foy is interned at the Bretteville-sur-Laize Canadian War Cemetery in Calvados, France.
A Memorial Cross medal was sent to the family for each son, but they were lost over time. In the fall of 2010, the medals were recovered from e-Bay sales site, and have been prepared for final display in the Westmeath Centre Hall.
Thanks go out to Whitewater Region Councillor Joey Trimm , who organized the medals’ return, and to Marina Pither (sister) and Lana Loxton (niece) who have donated the medals to the Hall. The medals were initially discovered by Dave Thomson of St. George, Ont. who contacted Joey Trimm.
The Memorial Cross, also known as the Silver Cross, or Mother’s Cross, is issued by Canada as a memento of personal loss and sacrifice on the part of widows and mothers of Canadian military servicemen and women who lay down their lives for their country during war. The number, rank and name of the soldier is engraved on the back. The GV1R on this WW2 period medal stands for King George the 6th.
Irvin Labow was born in Greenwood on June 18, 1918, son of Mr. and Mrs. John Labow, R.R. 2 Beachburg. Enlisting in 1940 he won his gunners Wing at Paulson, Manitoba going overseas as Sgt. Labow in 1942.
The following year he made several bombing raids over Germany at times a few “shaky do’s”, as they termed their narrow escapes. Once they we so badly shot up their bomb doors were jammed with their 2,000 lb. bomb fused to go off. They couldn’t drop it and they dared not land with it so they radioed to home base, receiving instructions to head for home and bale out when they were over English soil, facing the plane back to sea. Orders were obeyed with Irvin landing in an oat field where he walked to a farm house and telephoned his base.
Another time they were so badly shot up they were ready to bale out. It took them four hours to cross the North Sea. They made it with only enough gas left over for fifteen more minutes.
It was on March 31, 1944, he made his fatal trip. He had twenty six operational flights to his credit all over Germany and four more meant that he would be permitted to return home on furlough.
During his training period he had taken several courses, attaining a little higher office after each one. When he was killed he was Flying Officer I. Labow. Only 22 years old when he enlisted, he was listed as missing on March 31st 1944.
He was awarded his Operational Wings posthumously. It is in the form of a gold pin and was sent to his mother a year later. They were also sent a photograph of his grave. It is in a British cemetery in Germany.
Elmer Stephan Kenny was born near Beachburg in Westmeath Township, son of Mr. and Mrs. James Kenny, on July 1st, 1921.
He enlisted in 1943 and went overseas with the Irish Regiment of Canada in August, 1944, where he was stationed in England, Italy, Belgium and Holland.
Killed in action in Otterloo, Holland, he was buried there in a small graveyard and his grave is marked with a small wooden cross. Later he was moved to Canadian Cemetery Grossbeek.
Robert Kenny, Beachburg, has been advised by the Geographical Branch, Dept. of Mines and Technical Surveys that his brother the late Private Elmer Stephan Kenny has been honoured posthumously. The name Kenny has been approved for a lake in Freeman Township, District of Muskoka. Included in the letter was an aerial map showing Lake Kenny situated approximately 10 miles south of MacTier between Lake Joseph and Georgian Bay.
Representatives of the Government of the Netherlands have been in touch with Robt. Kenny, notifying that he is eligible for a trip to that country, as next of kin of his brother. Several relatives of soldiers made this trip in 1962 and the most elderly were taken first.
From Laurentian View Tweedsmuir
9,000 Fallen Soldiers Etched into the Sand on Normandy Beach to Commemorate Peace Day on September 25, 2013.
Normandy Beach – a FANTASTIC visual reminder of the staggering loss!
“A few weekends ago, British artists Jamie Wardley and Andy Moss, accompanied by numerous volunteers, took to the beaches of Normandy with rakes and stencils in hand to etch 9,000 silhouettes representing fallen people into the sand. Titled The Fallen 9000, the piece is meant as a stark visual reminder of the civillians, Germans and allied forces who died during the D-Day beach landings at Arromanches on June 6th, 1944 during WWII. The original team consisted of 60 volunteers, but as word spread nearly 500 additional local residents arrived to help with the temporary installation that lasted only a few hours before being washed away by the tide.”
“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”
~ Proverbs 27:17