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Red and White flies over Campbell River veterans’ graves

Pat Goddard, one of the founders of the Campbell River Genealogy Society, places a Canadian flag beside the grave of Sgt. Erling T. Wolner, a veteran of the Second World War. The society is placing flags at the grave sites of all known vets for Remembrance Day. - Paul Rudan/The Mirror
Pat Goddard, one of the founders of the Campbell River Genealogy Society, places a Canadian flag beside the grave of Sgt. Erling T. Wolner, a veteran of the Second World War. The society is placing flags at the grave sites of all known vets for Remembrance Day.
— image credit: Paul Rudan/The Mirror

Lichen in hues of green and white grow in petal-like blotches across the modest gravestone.

At first glance, you can barely make out a name or any dates on the marker.

Look closer though, and you can pick out a clue that this is the final resting place of a First World War veteran – the poppy in the stone’s top right hand corner.

Here lies Acting Corporal Horace McNutt. Born Oct 10, 1891 in Truro, Colchester County, Nova Scotia; died 1940 and buried at the Campbell River Cemetery.

There are no flowers or adornments beside McNutt’s grave, and whatever relations he had in Campbell River are long gone too.

It almost seemed inevitable the memory of this vet would be forgotten as the lichen inched its way across the face of the chiseled granite.

But as Remembrance Day approaches, it’s easy to identify Corporal McNutt’s grave stone as a burial site of a Canadian military veteran.

Beside his grave flies a little Canadian flag. Look around the cemetery and you’ll see quite a few more red and white flags marking the final resting places of other vets. And there are still more at the other city plot on General Hill.

“As of Monday we have 75, but we found five more this morning! It’s ongoing,” says Janice Wilken, a director with the Campbell River Genealogy Society.

Thanks to the society, the memory of these interred vets are also being honoured on Monday, and will be on every November 11th.

“We hope to have bigger flags next year,” Wilken says on a cool Wednesday afternoon, as she watches a fellow society member place a Canadian flag at another grave marker.

Pat Goddard is one of the founders of the Campbell River Genealogy Society and she’s here today flagging the burial site of Sgt. Erling T. Wolner, a Second World War vet who died Dec. 22, 1982 at age 73.

“There, that’s better,” she says with satisfaction.

The flag project was the idea of another shy society member who wanted to commemorate the grave site of a relative, but doesn’t want to be identified.

The irony of a researcher who doesn’t want be part of the historic record isn’t lost on Wilken.

“We’re not quite reclusive, but we’re not so much social,” she says laughing, as she stops to rephrase, “A lot of us are very social! We just love the research and to have it used for such a worthy thing like this is awesome.”

The project means a lot to Wilken who “comes from a long line of military men.”

Her great grandfather served in the First World War, her uncle in the Second, and both men spent time as prisoners of war.

Along with the bigger flags, the genealogy society also plans to produce laminated information sheets that will be placed at each veteran’s grave.

The sheets will provide background on the vets which will benefit those on self-guided tours. The society also hosts its own cemetery tours.

“Next year we want to combine our research with the Legion Ladies Auxiliary and hopefully we can come up with as a complete list as possible,” says Wilken. “And, with the city’s blessing, we’d like to hold a candlelight vigil.”

If you look even closer at Horace McNutt’s grave stone, you can spot the second poppy in the top left corner. A rubbing impression would reveal the rest, but it’s easier if you just ask the good folks from the genealogy society.

They’ll tell you McNutt was the seventh of eight children. According to census records, he lived in North River, Nova Scotia (1901) and later moved to Salmon River, N.S. (1911), earning a living as a butcher.

In 1915 he enlisted with the 106th Nova Scotia Rifles, and today he rests in the Campbell River Cemetery.

Other Flags

 

  • Harry Thorne Vanstone - A Second World War vet and the son of an original non-native Campbell River settler. His father, David Vanstone, donated the property for the cemetery with the condition that the front row be reserved for the Vanstone family.
  • Lt. Norman Neil McPhedran – A First World War veteran. McPhedran Road is named after him. His grandson, James McPhedran, is an executive vice-president with the Bank of Nova Scotia and reportedly visited Campbell River last week to commemorate his grandfather.
  • John Perkins – Served in both World Wars and was one of the original non-native settlers of Campbell River.
  • Edward Harold Masters – A decorated Army sergeant in the First World War and an early settler.
  • Learn more about the Campbell River Genealogy Society at www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~bccrgc/
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