On February 10, 2021, the Bezanson School invited Bruce Fenton, President, and Jim Robertson, Vice-President of the West Smoky Legion, to present the winners for the Remembrance Day Contest for 2020.
Although you can never sufficiently thank Legion members who have not only volunteered years upon years of service but also served in executive positions, Arne and Elaine LaValley decided to formally acknowledge such an accomplishment at the October 5, 2020 meeting. The recipients received a coffee cup that was designed with the Legion Logo and inscribed
with “Thank You to a Long Time Legion Member and Volunteer” and a “Certificate of Volunteer Appreciation”. The years of dedicated service range from 35 to 50 years. It was a complete surprise for Bruce, Larry and Donna which made the event even more memorable.
In 2010, the LaValley family decided to renovate the basement of the Legion Hut – all in the name of their mother and grandmother, Emilia LaValley.
Although the earliest recorded information pertaining to the sponsorship of swimming lessons in the Legion Meeting Minutes was in 1966, the lessons certainly occurred much earlier. There are those who remember attending the old pool in 1959 – 1961. The pool was built in 1948 and was situated on 99th avenue where the Grande Prairie Curling Rink is now located. At that time, parents car-pooled or should I say, “truck-pooled” as kids actually rode in the truck box to make the trip to Grande Prairie.
The new pool, located in Bear Creek Park (now known as the Muskoseepi Park) opened in June of 1962; therefore any lessons after that date would have occurred at the new pool. Transportation was organized by 1962 as there are those who only recall riding the bus. The outdoor pool closed in 2013.
Eventually a large recreation centre known as the “RecPlex” was built in the early 1970’s and housed an arena and an indoor pool. As the City’s population continued to grow substantially, a new 450,000 sq. ft. multiplex recreation centre known as “Eastlink” was built on the south side of Grande Prairie and opened in December 2011.
The West Smoky Legion has gone above and beyond over the years to ensure that all the children in the area had the opportunity to learn how to swim. Various fundraising events were held specifically to be in a position to sponsor the swimming lessons. Even during the early 1980’s when the Legion was experiencing a slow financial period, the sponsorship never waivered. The earliest information in the Meeting Minutes of 1966 had 83 participants recorded. The number of registrants has varied over the years from a high in 1983 of 122 to 60 in 2019. Although the original lessons were for ten days, they have been reduced significantly over the years.
It is interesting to note that during the Legion’s sponsorship of swimming lessons, there has been three generations of students. Donna & Don McNally, Grant Bulford, Lynne Oe, Wanda Zenner, Duane LaValley, Arne LaValley, Grant LaValley, Maxine Robertson and Tom Laverick are some of those who were among the original participants who subsequently ensured that their own children learned to swim and now have the pleasure of watching their grandchildren learn a very important life-skill – all sponsored by the Legion.
Written by Wanda Zenner
West Smoky Legion No. 244 Meeting Minutes
Donna McNally, Danny Diederich, Grant Bulford, Melvin Bulford, Lynne Oe, Christine Thorpe, Cherry Dionne, Carol Sorensen, Maxine Robertson, Duane LaValley, Arne LaValley
Although the Legion is not holding meetings at this time, it is still hard at work. Bruce Fenton, President of West Smoky Legion No. 244, along with the Legion Members, voted unanimously to donate to specific charities and non-profit societies.
Emilia (Emily), born on October 25, 1922 at Sexsmith, was the 2nd oldest of John and Tillie Marek’s six children. In 1928, The Marek family moved to a farm in the Twilight District and Emily and her siblings attended the Twilight One-Room School. After completing Grade 9, Emily attended St. Joseph’s High School in Grande Prairie.
By 1949, the veterans from Bezanson and the surrounding area decided that the formation of a Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion would be a worthwhile endeavor for the Community. They followed the model utilized by the East Smoky Legion Branch No. 89 from DeBolt and received a favorable response to their application for a Charter. Therefore, the West Smoky Legion Branch No. 244 came into existence on March 4, 1949.
There is no official number for war brides who married Canadian soldiers during the First World War but it is estimated that 54,000 relatives and dependants accompanied troops who returned to Canada following demobilization
Each November, Poppies bloom on the lapels and collars of millions of Canadians. The significance of the Poppy can be traced back to the Napoleonic Wars in the 19th century, over 110 years before being adopted in Canada. Records from that time indicate how thick Poppies grew over the graves of soldiers in the area of Flanders, France. Fields that had been barren before battle exploded with the blood-red flowers after the fighting ended. During the tremendous bombardments of the war, the chalk soils became rich in lime from rubble, allowing the “popaver rhoeas” to thrive. When the war ended, the lime was quickly absorbed and the Poppy began to disappear again.
The person who first introduced the Poppy to Canada and the Commonwealth was Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae of Guelph, Ontario, a Canadian Medical Officer during the First World War. John McCrae penned the Poem “In Flanders Fields” on a scrap of paper in May, 1915 on the day following the death of a fellow soldier. Little did he know then that those 13 lines would become enshrined in the hearts and minds of all who would wear them. McCrae’s poem was published in Punch Magazine in December of that same year, and the poem later served as inspiration three years later for Moina Michael, an American teacher. Moina Michael made a pledge to always wear a Poppy as a sign of Remembrance.
During a visit to the United States in 1920, a French woman named Madame Guerin learned of the custom. Madame Guerin decided to make and sell poppies to raise money for children in war-torn areas of France. The Great War Veteran’s Association in Canada (our predecessor) officially adopted the poppy as its Flower of Remembrance on July 5, 1921.
Today, the Poppy is worn each year during the Remembrance period to honour Canada’s Fallen. The Legion also encourages the wearing of a Poppy for the funeral of a Veteran and for any commemorative event honouring Fallen Veterans. It is not inappropriate to wear a Poppy during other times to commemorate Fallen Veterans and it is an individual choice to do so, as long as it’s worn appropriately.
Thanks to the millions of Canadians who wear the Legion’s lapel Poppy each November, the little red flower has never died, and the memories of those who fell in battle remain strong.
In Flanders Fields
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae
~ May 3, 1915
(As published in Punch Magazine, December 8, 1915)
Article from The Royal Canadian Legion