Last month, over a dozen dedicated current and former Leaside residents met on a wet and rainy afternoon to participate in the Leaside Heritage Preservation Society’s (LHPS) first-ever Remembrance Day Walk. The event was organized as a tribute to the 18 young Leaside servicemen killed during World War II.
In preparing for the walk, the LHPS identified the names and addresses of each of the young men who had died serving their country. LHPS representatives then visited each house, asking the owners for permission to place a memorial sign on their lawns in honour of the fallen soldier who once lived there.
“The response was overwhelming,” said LHPS board member Jennifer Avveduto, the originator of the sign campaign. “Virtually every Leaside homeowner we contacted said ‘yes’ to having a sign on their lawn – an almost 100 per cent acceptance rate.” As one resident on Sharron Road put it: “We are honoured to participate in this project and would welcome it on an annual basis.”
The signs were installed about a week before Remembrance Day, allowing the LHPS plenty of time to promote them – and the upcoming Walk – through Facebook and Instagram posts, information on the LHPS website, and emails to members.
The walk, open to LHPS members and their guests, began at noon, November 11, at Trace Manes Park where board members Susan Parr, Catherina Maughan and chair Ann Brown met participants. Each participant received a map and itinerary of the houses to be visited. As the group stopped before each house, a board member read a short biography of the soldier being commemorated – including how and where he died. Photos of each serviceman were also made available.
“The bios made it come alive,” said participant Gerry Turrin of Sutherland Drive. “They helped me realize the huge sacrifice these boys made – not just here in Leaside but in communities across Canada. I’m looking forward to more tours like this one.”
Millwood Road resident and retired Canadian history teacher John Lord agreed. “This was very valuable. Going forward, I hope students as well as adults will participate. It would be such a great learning opportunity for young people to know about these servicemen, who were themselves not much older than high school students.”
In total, participants visited nine of the 18 scheduled homes before the persistent rain forced the tour to be cancelled. No one, however, was disappointed, and all seemed to agree that it had been a worthwhile and moving experience.
“We’re very pleased with the outcome,” as I myself observed. “But even more important, we’re glad we could raise awareness about the sacrifice these young men made for their country. All of them, except one, were in their 20s. They didn’t just give up their lives, which had barely begun, they gave up their entire futures. We owe them so much.”
We do indeed. Let us remember.
This article was guest contributed by Ted DeWelles, Leaside Heritage Preservation Society.