After two-years of closed-off services, the Remembrance Day ceremony in Cloverdale was once again open to the public and many came out to pay their respects.
Earle Fraser, the service officer for the Cloverdale Legion, estimated about 3,000 people attended the event in Veterans’ Square—the first back-to-normal service since 2019.
“I thought the day went pretty well,” he said. “It was a pretty good turnout, despite the biting cold weather. I think the temperature may have kept a few people away.”
Fraser added that it was great to have a large crowd back after streaming the ceremony for two years in a row.
“It was nice to see so many veterans who haven’t been out for two years to show up on what was a very cool day,” he said. “Usually, we get even more veterans and members of the general public, but, as I said, it was very cold.”
Fraser added that Hans Andersen, one of two 101-year-old WWII POWs scheduled to attend to lay wreaths, did not show up to the ceremony.
“Mr. Andersen had some medical issues and his doctor thought it would be better, because it was so cold, that he didn’t attend,” explained Fraser. “Though, he very much wanted to.”
Fraser said Dick Deck, the other 101-year-old veteran and POW, did attend with his son Brian Deck. Dick Deck laid a wreath at the cenotaph for all prisoners of war.
“It was great that Mr. Deck could attend,” added Fraser. “He was in fine spirits.”
Second World War veterans Andersen and Deck were both set to lay wreaths on behalf of POWs.
Andersen became a POW when he was captured in 1944 when the 1st Canadian Infantry Division and 5th Canadian Armoured Division fought in Italy along the Hitler Line. He spent one year as a POW.
Deck and his entire crew had to bail out of a Halifax Bomber after it got hit by enemy fire over Nazi Germany. The crew were on their way back after completing their 31st bombing mission in January, 1945.
After surviving the jump, Deck spent some time on the ground before he was finally captured by the Germans. Deck’s whole crew were eventually captured, but they all made it home after the war.
Mayor Brenda Locke was also on hand and laid a wreath on behalf of the City of Surrey.
Fraser said they had a surprise presentation back at the Legion early in the afternoon as the Cloverdale Legion presented Silver Cross Mother Sian LeSueur with a lifetime membership to Branch No. 6.
“The Dominion Command recently created an honorary lifetime membership in the Royal Canadian Legion,” explained Fraser. “We awarded it to Ms. LeSueur and I believe we are one of the first ones in Canada to award it.”
Fraser said he and Scott MacMillan, Branch No. 6. president, quieted the crowd down in the early afternoon and awarded it to LeSueur in front of those in attendance.
“It was very visible and she was overwhelmed with gratitude,” said Fraser. “She is now an honorary lifetime member of the Royal Canadian Legion.”
According to Veterans Affairs Canada, “The Memorial Cross (more often referred to as the Silver Cross) is awarded to mothers and widows (next of kin) of Canadian soldiers who died on active duty or whose death was consequently attributed to such duty.”
LeSueur lost her son, Garrett William Chidley, when he was killed in Afghanistan in 2010.
Fraser said next up for the Legion’s Remembrance Day organizing committee will be a debrief about how the day went, with a focus on what went right, what went wrong, and how things can be improved for next year’s ceremony.
He said over the next few weeks they’ll also focus on wrapping up the Poppy Campaign, as he and others will need to collect poppy donation boxes from businesses and schools around Cloverdale and Langley.
“We hope to have that all done by the end of November.”