End of an era

Saturday, June 2, 2007

I’ve been reading lately about the last of the Canadian WWI soldiers; men now in their 100’s, but who never saw battle since they were underage so either never shipped overseas or kept far from harm’s way. Soon, we’re going to start seeing the same phenomenon for the WWII soldiers, except for me, that’s a bit more personal, since my dad signed up in the Canadian navy in 1942 at the age of 17 and spend the next few years on active duty, as a gunner in Corvettes escorting convoys across the North Atlantic, then taking troops into both the Normandy and Sicily invasions.

He was in the Combined Operations group within the navy, and for years has been going to reunions of his group members in the context of larger RCNA meetings. This year, with both he and my mom now in their 80’s, they drove from their home in Picton to Digby, Nova Scotia for the reunion. Before they even arrived, I think that he knew it was the end. Too many familiar faces no longer appearing at the meetings, either passed on or just too old or unwell to travel. This time, they had only a handful attend, and they voted to call it quits. My dad will still attend the RCNA meetings as a member-at-large, but the Combined Operations group just doesn’t have the critical mass to continue.

My dad went through various positions with the group during the last 20 years or so of reunions: secretary, and several stints as president. Early on, he needed to keep a list of members and generate mailing labels, and I set up a spreadsheet (and later an Access database) and did this for him. He’s not that computer savvy, so it was easiest for me to just get the updates from him and send him a new list and a set of mailing labels when he needed it. From a peak of almost 300 members, it’s dropped below 100 remaining on the list (including widows of members), and it was sad doing what will undoubtedly be the last set of edits on this file. He had a few updates (and lots of deletions) after last month’s meeting, but wants to send out one last newsletter to everyone who’s left to let them know that the club is turning in its charter and shutting down.

He put a note in with the marked-up list that he sent a few days ago, finishing with:

It has been great of you to do this for so many years but this should be the last — the last of an era and the last of our club. Thanks again from all.

It has been my honour and pleasure to serve the veterans of this country.

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