Remembrance Day Ceremonies will be held in Tofino and Ucluelet on Thursday to honour Canada’s war veterans as well as those who never came home and to reflect on the impacts their sacrifices had on families and communities.
“It’s the time of year that we get to simply show our respects,” said Ucluelet mayor Mayco Noel. “For a lot of us, those are family members a few generations ago that sacrificed their lives for the lifestyle of where we’re sitting today.”
A parade will muster at the Ucluelet Fire Hall at 10 a.m. on Nov. 11 and is expected to arrive at the cenotaph outside the Army, Navy and Air Force Veterans Hall at 11 a.m. for the ceremony.
ANAF vice president Bronwyn Kelleher said the traditional luncheon following the ceremony has been cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions, but the ANAF will be open and the Ucluelet and Area Historical Society will have a display set up inside.
Kelleher was an integral cog in the wheels that resurrected and revitalized Ucluelet’s ANAF hall after the community nearly lost it to bankruptcy in 2015.
“It is an important part of the community and an accessible point for people and we hope to continue what we have grown it into,” she said. “We have weathered COVID okay and are starting to get the wheels rolling again.”
She added the hall provides an important venue for local musicians and artisans and also contributes back to the community through annual events like photos with Santa and a New Year’s celebration for youth.
She said the ANAF is always on the lookout for new volunteers, especially skilled tradespeople, and anyone willing to lend a hand is encouraged to contact her at
READ MORE: Ucluelet’s ANAF back in business
Tofino’s ceremony will begin at the cenotaph outside the Royal Canadian Legion at 10:55.
The town’s mayor Dan Law called Remembrance Day “one of the most important days of the year” and said it’s a valuable opportunity to press pause on the daily grind and reflect.
“To think about the terrible tragedy of war and what it means and the cost of war and to remember that as a community, as a province, as a nation, we really have to do all we can to remember that that is something we want to avoid and to create a society where hopefully we can live together peacefully,” he said.
“I always find Remembrance Day extremely moving, to think about the tremendous sacrifices that people made knowing the odds were so stacked against people ever coming home to their families and to their country and yet they went anyway. That, to me, is so tremendously moving.”
Law said his great grandfather was lost at sea in the Murmansk Run, his grandfather also served, his father had a career in the military, his uncle fought in the Gulf War and his friends have fought in conflicts around the world.
“My mom was English, so I grew up with those stories. Even as a little boy, I learned about the bombing of London. I learned what it was like at sea and I learned about the stories of my family,” he said. “It’s been part of my life, so I do always think about the reality of war and the terrible tragedy of war and how men and women have given their lives, and the effects on the population as a whole. It’s very personal and very important to me to remember and reflect.”
READ MORE: VIDEO: Remembrance Day in Ucluelet
He encourages everyone to spend the day reflecting and reading.
“There’s some tremendously powerful stories,” he said. “Just read and immerse oneself for a time in that world, the world of war and tragedy and what that means. I think the stories are the biggest thing that will carry through and help people understand the significance of Remembrance Day.”
Thursday will mark the 60th Remembrance Day ceremony that 86-year-old resident Whitey Bernard has attended in Tofino and he said turnouts have been growing over the past decade.
“You would think the interest would wane, but Remembrance Day services have brought out more people in the last 10 years and, until COVID hit us, it’s been remarkable the number of people that have attended the services,” he said. “It’s a day for the whole country to remember that these guys went over there with good intentions, to win a war and put our country on the map and fight an evil that we were well aware needed to be dealt with and thousands lost their lives.”
Bernard was five years old when he became an unlikely symbol of WWII as Province newspaper photographer Claude Dettloff captured a shot of him chasing after his dad who was parading down New Westminster Street on his way overseas, leading to the iconic image dubbed ‘Wait for me Daddy’ that catapulted the young Bernard into war bond drive fame.
“He was going away and I knew bloody well he was going away and I didn’t want him to go away,” Bernard said, recalling his dad reaching back for him as he stretched out his hand. “He shifted his rifle to his other hand, which you’re not supposed to do of course when you’re on parade.”
He added his dad had left the family before for training before travelling overseas and his family had long been involved in the military, so he understood the moment.
“I was part of that whole scene and I knew he was going away again and I was upset because I’d witnessed two other going aways just before this one,” he said. “I was a pretty experienced little saying-goodbye-guy. I knew they were going to war.”
Bernard would see his dad only once, and for just 10 days, over the next five years and he said part of the emotion that makes Dettloff’s photograph so powerful is that it portrays the “wreckage” the war wrought on families.
“It was part of growing up. When you’re little like that you think, ‘This is normal,’” he said. “You don’t realize it until you’re older that you missed out on something. When you’re experiencing something for the first time as a child, you think, ‘This is the way it is’ because you don’t know any different.”
He added that his grandfather, a veteran who had lost his arm in WWI, drove him and his mom to watch the parade down New Westminster Street to see his dad off.
“He could do the most amazing things,” Bernard said of his grandfather. “He was a dead shot with a rifle when they went hunting and he’d take me out fishing on the lake just after the war and he could hold a fishing rod on the little flap of an arm he had left, he could pinch the rod there and reel with the other hand; it was extraordinary.”
He said his other grandfather never returned from WWI and his name is on the monument at Vimy Ridge.
He added his Uncle Joe and cousin Hector were both just 19 when they enlisted in WWII. Hector lost his leg fighting in Italy.
“Somehow or other his tank got hit and he got blown out of it and landed on the road and another tank went by and mashed his leg,” Bernard said.
He said he spends time on Remembrance Day remembering his family members and his experiences during that time as well as his mother’s efforts to raise him and keep him with her while his father was overseas.
“Remembrance Day for a lot of people isn’t anything to do with war. Some people will tell you that it’s war mongering and all this stuff, it’s not. It’s about remembering those folks that went over and remembering the family situations,” he said. “It’s a day to look back and be thankful.”
Tuff City Radio will be airing special Remembrance Day programming throughout the day and check the Westerly News Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/WesterlyNews for a livestream and photos of the West Coast ceremonies.