George Wilson, born and raised in Virgil, volunteered to go overseas to war when he was 19 and spent five years in the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals.
On Wednesday, Remembrance Day, his son Rob Wilson and daughter Debbie Zabek visited NOTL's clock tower cenotaph to lay a wreath in honour of their father, who would have turned 100 this year.
Rob Wilson, a lifelong Niagara-on-the-Lake resident, said this was the first year a wreath was laid at the cenotaph in memory of their dad.
“We’re very proud of what he did,” said Wilson.
“He was one of the radio guys. When the first group of soldiers usually went in and they’d take over a village, he’d set up a communications tower and run the communications,” he said.
Despite official Remembrance Day services at the cenotaph being cancelled due to COVID-19, a crowd of about 120 people spontaneously gathered to pay respects to those that fought for our freedom.
Wilson said his father would tell stories about the war years, but usually comical ones about being on leave.
“He’d say, ‘Just pray you don’t have to go through it.’ He must have seen some terrible things, but he never talked about it.”
George Wilson fought in Sicily and “worked his way up through Italy and France and he was there when they liberated Holland. And to the day he died he spoke very highly of the Dutch people.”
Wilson said his dad grew up on a farm in Virgil, “so his mother was always sending care packages over, and she’d send over big parcels of canned peaches and apples and things. They would get to him eventually and he’d give them all to the Dutch people or wherever he was.”
“I’m just very proud of my father and everyone who went over, especially the volunteers that didn’t have to go at the time. They went over and Niagara-on-the-Lake lost a lot of local boys.”
During the war, his grandparents lived where the Stage Coach restaurant now is and they operated a photography studio down below, he said.
“They took all the pictures of all the soldiers before they went overseas, in their uniform all shined up,” he said.
When a soldier died, the family would contact the studio and they would put a photo in the window in their memory.
“That’s how a lot of times people found out,” Wilson said.
His father made it back from the war and ran a successful car dealership business in NOTL for many years.
“On Remembrance Day, he would be down here. I’m here for him and not just him, all the local guys, all the guys all over the world who gave their lives so we could be standing here.”