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Niagara Falls
Saturday, May 18, 2024
Remembrance Day ceremonies draw hundreds to NOTL cenotaphs



Hundreds of people gathered around the clock tower cenotaph in Old Town Niagara-on-the-Lake Thursday to pay respects to Canadian soldiers who gave their lives for the country's freedom.

The ceremony began with the Canadian flag being lowered to half-mast, while families laid wreaths around the base of the monument.

The flag was raised again for the formal ceremony and then lowered again at 11 a.m. for the playing of the "Last Post" and then raised once again as more wreaths were laid by town organizations, including the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 124.

Sheila Hirsch-Kalm, a longtime resident of Niagara-on-the-Lake, was there to show her support, as she is every year.

She was holding a poppy candle she got in Flanders Fields, Belgium. Her grandfather Donald Currie was a soldier with Scotland's Black Watch and was one many whose body was never recovered from the battle site at Flanders.

"His name is on the Menin Gate. That's the gate in the local village, a huge, great big, like an Arc de Triomphe (in Paris). It has hundreds of thousands of names of those who were never found. They just disappeared into the mud," Hirsch-Kalm said.

Her father John Grubb was killed during the Second World War and was also a member of the Black Watch.

She brings the candle to the Niagara-on-the-Lake ceremony every year to pay her respects.

"I went to Flanders Fields for the services there, that they hold every night. There's a local village that their firemen have a band and they march up to the cenotaph every night and they play the 'Last Post.' Every night. It's quite a quite a moving thing."

She said Remembrance Day is "very" significant for her.

"I've gone to these (ceremonies) since I was a child in the U.K., in Scotland, and I was a junior Red Cross nurse — I wasn't old enough for anything else. And so I marched in the parades as a young girl in my Red Cross uniform," she said.

She's continued that tradition for her whole life.

"No matter what's happened, the weather or anything else, I've been here."

The weather on the day of this year's Niagara-on-the-Lake ceremony was among the best it's ever been, she said.

"It's actually quite balmy to be sitting here compared to other years when it's been snowing, windy."

She said she's also watched the size of the crowd grow every year.

"Twenty years ago, there was just a handful of people, there really was — you could count them. And as time has gone on, which is great to see, there's a bigger recognition for that need to remember. And that's the thing – to remember."

Especially after enduring the COVID-19 pandemic, it's important "to realize how much we owe to others, whether it's from the war time or people who've been looking after us in the hospitals and everything. It's all got to do with people. And it was people who went off to war. It was people's sons and daughters."

She said she's glad to see people out recognizing those who fought.

"Compared to what I saw 22 years ago here, there's far more people recognizing it. And that's good."

At 1 p.m., a gathering was held at the Queenston cenotaph.

Veterans, cadets and residents paid their solemn respects to the mighty dead as about 40 people stood on a quiet corner of the Niagara Parkway.

The Queenston cenotaph is emblazoned with the various wars Niagara residents have fought and died in. From the Great War to the war in Korea, it stands as a reminder of the many who never made it home from the front lines.

At the top of the monument is the statue of a soldier, with rifle and bayonet. Under his feet, in the centre of a stone wreath, the words "Lest we Forget" remind of the sacrifice of many bearing his likeness. 

The names of some of Niagara’s fallen were read out. Walter Nisbet, Edwin Shepard and E. Winnet Thompson are just three of the roughly 60 men from the region who died during the First and Second World Wars.

Minister Sheldon Kofsky sought to remind people that Remembrance Day is no celebration, but a time of solemn mourning.

“Let us not glorify conflict,” he said.

“But remember those who have been lost because of it.”


— With files from Evan Saunders, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Lake Report

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