Families remember loved ones who served at a Beechwood ceremony

“I just want to pay respect to my grandfather and all these great men and women who gave their lives so that we can have the freedoms we enjoy today.”

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The ground at Beechwood Cemetery was still covered in frost early Thursday as Charlie Watson walked along the rows of military headstones, reading names.

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Watson’s grandfather, Alexander (Sandy) Watson, is not buried at Beechwood; rather, he is in a grave in Michigan, where his wife, Patricia, was from. But Charlie remembered him as well.

Charlie was only young when his grandfather died, but he remembers Alexander resting in his bed while a hockey game was broadcast on the TV in a room down the hall. It was Charlie’s job to run back and forth and report the score to his grandfather. “He loved that,” Charlie said. “Before the Senators came, he was a huge fan of Habs and got to know some of the players and management.”

Charlie Watson walks among the military graves in Beechwood Cemetery on Memorial Day, thinking of his grandfather, Alexander (Sandy) Watson.
Charlie Watson walks among the military graves in Beechwood Cemetery on Memorial Day, thinking of his grandfather, Alexander (Sandy) Watson. Photo by Bruce Deachman /Postmedia

Hockey was more than just a hobby to Alexander. In 1948, he assembled the diverse crew of players who, like the RCAF Flyers, unexpectedly struck gold at the Olympics in St. Louis. Moritz, Switzerland.

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He came from Scotland and joined the RCAF, where he served as a lieutenant colonel. After the war, he was a prominent ophthalmologist in Ottawa and helped found the Ottawa Eye Institute.

A professional trumpeter, Charlie said he expected to play The Last Post on the street outside his nearby home at 11 a.m.

“I just want to pay respect to my grandfather and all these great men and women who gave their lives so that we can have the freedoms we enjoy today. It may be a bit of a cliché, but that’s just it: I just appreciate it so much. the sacrifices they made. ”

Meanwhile, in the newer, hilltop section at Beechwood, Kathleen Caught attended the grave of her parents, Ron and Ethel Caught, who died in 2017 and ’16, respectively, each aged 90.

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Kathleen Caught visited the Beechwood Cemetery grave of her parents, Ron and Ethel Caught.  “But the memories,” she added, “are important to keep going.  I am here to remember them and all the others who sacrificed. ”
Kathleen Caught visited the Beechwood Cemetery grave of her parents, Ron and Ethel Caught. “But the memories,” she added, “are important to keep going. I am here to remember them and all the others who sacrificed. ” Photo by Bruce Deachman /Postmedia

Ron, Kathleen recalls, was able to sew, a skill he learned from Ethel and one held in particularly high regard and demand when he served on a submarine during the Korean War. “But he didn’t like being on sub-subjects,” she added. “He was claustrophobic.”

They met on the ferry to Victoria, BC, where Ron, then 18, was headed for naval training after signing for service from his hometown of Simpson, Sask., And where Ethel was headed from Edmonton.

Ron was a joker, Kathleen remembers, but also taught her three children the importance of discipline, respect and honor. Ethel, meanwhile, was the heart and soul of the family that cared for others.

“Military wives,” Kathleen said, “didn’t get the wages when their husbands were away at sea, so my mom was the organizer of all the wives. When someone got their salary, we would have consumption at their house. When someone else got theirs, we would have a meal at their place. We shared with each other and helped each other, and she was the organizer of that. “

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Ethel’s death, Kathleen noted, followed her own war with Alzheimer’s disease.

“But the memories,” she added, “are important to keep going. I am here to remember them and all the others who sacrificed. ”

As the sun rose higher in the sky on Thursday, officials began arriving in Beechwood, preparing for the official Memorial Day ceremony. A strong breeze carried the voices of the chamber choir of the Ottawa Catholic School Board, warming up nearby, through the cemetery. And singly and in pairs, for the most part, family and friends took up positions at the markers of their loved ones, remembering.

Annie Bourbonnais visits the Beechwood Cemetery grave of her husband, Dan Labelle.  “Every year on Remembrance Day, he paraded.  This year, I took his place.
Annie Bourbonnais visits the Beechwood Cemetery grave of her husband, Dan Labelle. “Every year on Remembrance Day, he paraded. This year, I took his place. “ Photo by Bruce Deachman /Postmedia

Annie Bourbonnais formed a heart out of twigs in front of the tombstone of her husband, Dan Labelle, placing a poppy in the center.

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Labelle, who worked at the Canadian Forces research station in Leitrim, died last January of a heart attack. He was 52.

When we remember him, Bourbonnais hopes we will remember a husband and father who turned down promotions, instead recommending co-workers so he could stay with “the people”. As a leading sailor who deployed to Afghanistan, he later shifted jobs within the forces to minimize time away from his family.

“Every year on Remembrance Day, he paraded,” Bourbonnais recalled. “This year, I took his place.

“He was a wonderful husband. I miss him so much. ”

Not far away, David Camellato stood next to the grave of his younger brother, Danny, who was working with the Forces ’intelligence branch.

David Camellato visits the Beechwood Cemetery grave of his younger brother, Danny Camellato.
David Camellato visits the Beechwood Cemetery grave of his younger brother, Danny Camellato. Photo by Bruce Deachman /Postmedia

When we remember Danny, David hopes we will remember someone with whom it was fun to be. “He never said anything bad about anyone. He found good in everyone. ”

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David admitted that his brother’s life was “a kind of mess” until, in his late 30s, he joined the Forces and “found his purpose in the life that served the country.

“After he joined, you could see a big change in him.”

Danny traveled the country, but was later stationed in Ottawa. “It was nice to finally be together in the same city,” David recalled. The reunion lasted less than a year, however; Danny died of a heart attack in June 2019.

Elsewhere at Beechwood on Thursday, a three-generation reunion took place when sisters Julia Sharpe and Jessica Elgin and their mother, Barbara Tink, laid poppies on the grave of their grandparents Samuel and Hazel Havelock. November 11 accidentally marked the birthday of the sisters ’father and Tink’s husband, David Havelock, who died last spring and is also buried at Beechwood.

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Julia Sharpe places a poppy on her grandparents' Beechwood Cemetery grave, while her sister, Jessica Elgin, and mother, Barbara Tink, watch.
Julia Sharpe places a poppy on her grandparents’ Beechwood Cemetery grave, while her sister, Jessica Elgin, and mother, Barbara Tink, watch. Photo by Bruce Deachman /Postmedia

Samuel and Hazel served in all three branches of the military, in Canada and, during World War II, in Europe. David, meanwhile, was a reservist who, as a federal employee, always enjoyed getting his birthday off work.

Remembering Samuel, think of the accountant who took advantage of the opportunities offered by the military, eventually becoming a bomber navigator.

And, unaware of it at the time, Elgin as a cadet joined the same unit to which her father belonged – the 30th Field Artillery Regiment – before joining the Cameron Highlanders.

Laying wreaths on behalf of the RCMP during the Remembrance Day ceremonies at the National Military Cemetery at the Beechwood Cemetery on Thursday.
Laying wreaths on behalf of the RCMP during the Remembrance Day ceremonies at the National Military Cemetery at the Beechwood Cemetery on Thursday. Photo of Jean Levac /Postmedia

Hazel, or Nan as she was known, will be remembered for creating a community wherever she went. “People crowded around her and she gathered people,” Sharpe said. “She was a beautiful person who came in every round of every dining room of every place she shouldn’t be, as a nurse at the front lines of France.”

Hazel, who lied about her age to join the military at 16, was also a pilot with the RCAF’s women’s division and flew supply-laden bush planes from Winnipeg to Northern Canada.

“Today is our father’s first birthday since he passed away,” Sharpe said, “so we really wanted to come celebrate and spend some time with him.

“But it’s also Memorial Day, and our family has always really valued that, remembering our family and other families. It’s always been a family day. ”

bdeachman@postmedia.com

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