Friday, November 12, 2010

Remembrance Day 2010

What a poignant day it is every year: fewer and fewer brave old soldiers pin on their medals with shaky fingers and slowly march or are wheeled to the service. We lost several gallant old souls from our Three Hills community this past year and their absence was keenly felt, no more so than among the tiny group of them who remains. 

I was privileged to be asked to play the piano for our community's Remembrance Day gathering this year; Rev David Smith led the service and gave the homily.

And then it was straight back to the TH for "what is becoming a tradition," as 87-year-old vet Dixon Carter told me: lunch at Nilgiris, with the veterans and service people who come invited to be our honoured guests.

With the absence of a couple of ladies who slipped away before I could get their picture, here is our 2010 Honour Roll:

Dixon Carter

Dixon was with us last year too, and he said he had been looking forward to today's lunch with his daughter. Dixon is now 87, and his story is here. He asked me if I would be doing this again next year, and I told him I was booking a date with him, same time same place, for the next 13 years ...

Gordon and Sandy Head

You can read about Gordon and my lovely Kathleen at the same link as Dixon's, above. How these two look out for each other! She worries about his pills and his back and he worries that too much sugar might make her ill. And they hold hands and gaze at each other like they are viewing something precious. Which they are. She told me, "You know, you are the only person who calls me by my given name ..."

Phil Johnson

Phil recited "In Flanders Field" at the Remembrance Day service. I have never heard those words spoken with such persuasion. When I remarked on that to him at lunch, he replied, "You see, it's not just words to me." After I showed them their picture, Phil asked, "Who is that old man?" Quick as a flash Marion responded, "I don't know, but I sure like the looks of his young wife!"

Jeff Leeder

So tall his head brushes the lights in the TH, Jeff was a kid who was heading down the wrong track. He was kicked out of Prairie high school and swore he'd never come back to this town. Quite a few years later, he has returned: he bears a chestful of medals from engagements in Grenada, Afghanistan, Iraq. He has two wonderful children - Jenna (of "rock-band" fame on my Halloween blog!) and Owen, AKA "The Boy". His lovely wife was absent today. When I asked the kids where she was they told me she was "at the depot" - she has joined the RCMP. This family knows what it means to serve and they do it willingly.

Jeff fully understands the cost of sacrifice. He understands far more clearly than most of us the immeasurable value of blood shed on behalf of another. On his arm is tattooed one word: "Forgiven."  

Margaret Trentham

Margaret is the President of our local Legion chapter. She devotes countless hours to our town and the veterans and servicemen and women. It is in large measure thanks to her vigilance that this town comes together during the month of November to remember, to mourn, to honour.

Richard Pettifer

This is a hard day for Richard; when I asked him what he was up to he replied, simply, "Remembering." Here is a man who has given so much that even his heart has been stripped from him ... literally: He has lived with a heart transplant for 14 years. But the kindness of his original heart has never left him. The memories remain, in varying shades of light and shadow. And he moves onward, forward, like a good soldier, picking up the pieces of his life and transforming them into something just as resplendent, just as noble, just as meaningful.

Richard never takes for granted the value of life and he honours it with every fibre of his being.

Corinne Rivett

Corinne is a frequent guest at the TH; but it was not until today that her daughter quietly mentioned to me that her mother had served in the Air Force ("She doesn't want you to feel like you have to make a fuss of her," Pat confided). I asked Corinne to tell me her story. "I was in one of the last three squadrons deployed by the Air Force in 1945," she said. "I had to wait till I turned 18 and then I was gone. I couldn't wait to serve."

All the French lemon pie in the world cannot repay this dear woman for the sacrifices she made and the willingness with which she served.

Marc Reid

"I was in the infantry," Marc proclaimed. "It was right in 1944-1945; the Germans heard I was coming and they surrendered!" In Marc's characteristically self-deprecating way, he downplays his service - "I was only there for the last bit of the war; there were many of my buddies who were there the whole time, who didn't make it ..."

Marc was missing his dear Verna today. Together they had started the old Coffee Break family restaurant in Three Hills many years ago. For me, Verna is the gold standard of hospitality. "She would have loved what you did today, Karyn."

With those words, I felt like I had been bestowed with a medal myself.

Ronnie Weick

A noble spirit; he and his wife are my neighbours and, by happy coincidence, their daughter Elaine - whom I met through Carswell - has been my friend for a number of years!

The travails of war, and of life, are catching up with Ron and he was unable to participate in the service today. It seemed to me, watching from the piano as the valiant parade of veterans marked the start of our service, that there was an enormous gap where Ron would have been. BA took over roast beef dinner for them and they received it with great gratitude and humility. I hope they know that it is we who are grateful and humbled by what they have done for our country, for our world.

Jessie Howe

Lloyd Howe was a valiant soldier and Jessie, his beautiful bride, was a devoted volunteer during the war. The last time I saw Lloyd was a couple of weeks before he passed away. I took him a chocolate pie because I had bumped into Jessie at the post office and she had commented that Lloyd had said just that day that since the TH had closed he hadn't had a decent piece of chocolate pie.

When I went to their little apartment Lloyd was sitting quietly in his big easy chair. His face lit up when he saw what I was carrying. "I don't remember your name, but I sure do remember your chocolate pie!" he exclaimed happily.

Lloyd was buried on September 21, 2007, the day before my Mum.

I phoned Jessie up to be my personal guest at the TH this Remembrance day. On our menu board, where I listed all the desserts, at the bottom I wrote

"Chocolate Pie for Buck"

What would we do without the faithfulness of these men and women who have given so much for our freedom? As their numbers inexorably dwindle and time claims one after another, we must never, never forget. 

We'll meet again, don't know where, don't know when,
But I know we'll meet again, some sunny day.
Keep smiling through, just like you always do,
'Til the blue skies drive the dark clouds far away.

So will you please say hello to the folks that I know,
Tell them I won't be long.
They'll be happy to know that as you saw me go,
I was singing this song:

We'll meet again, don't know where, don't know when,
But I know we'll meet again, some sunny day.


  1. Thanks Karyn... a very special way of "remembering."

  2. I find that Remembrance Day becomes more and more important as the years pass. Maybe it is my years that are passing that makes me appreciate the veterans, their families and all the sacrifices that have been made.

  3. Wow! Amazing! Your truly an inspiration, Karyn. Some day I would like to hear your story!

  4. How nice that you have made the TeaHouse a part of what Remembrance Day is in Three Hills. November 11th stays alive as a special day in the calendar because people make the effort to remember in tangible ways -- nice work!

  5. Good morning 3 Hills!!!!!

    A person I admire and revere is Karyn. I thank you for all you do for everyone each and every day. When I spoke with you on Remembrance Day I realized what a blessing it is to have Karyn as my friend, coworker and inspiration to give as much as yourself to others. Each time I see Karyn I get excited give her a hug....having her in my life is a precious gift….to me she is my big sister. To know someone who lives by the 3Ls “love, laugh and learn’ is a gift. Thank you for who are, what you off to others and the love you have for all.

    I just read through the stories from Remembrance Day on the Tea House website and was touched by each of these wonderful people. What a beautiful way to share and remember.


  6. "God, keep our land glorious and free." I thank God for all these individuals who have helped make it so - and who keep the whole earth as beautiful as it is. Thank you for sharing their stories.


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