By Rosalind Russell – Nearly 100 people took in the 2023 Espanola Royal Canadian Legion Branch #39 Honours and Awards Night on Thursday, October 12th. The formal event was an opportunity to share in the history of the Legion, the work it carries out throughout the year and acknowledge those who are veterans, or members. The evening opened with the March on the Colours, National Anthem, Act of Remembrance and Reveille, as well as the toast to the Monarchy. Legion President Gary MacPherson introduced the head table, guests and award recipients throughout the evening.
Following dinner, Espanola Mayor Doug Gervais opening the formal ceremony stating a gracious thank you to Legion members acknowledging the work they carry out throughout the year.
Zone Commander Sharleen Sissons also thanked the Legion for its work and the vital role the Espanola branch plays, not only on the local level, but on the Zone level, which has 11 branches within its jurisdiction.
Keynote speaker, Joseph Burke, the town clerk for the Town of Espanola, spoke about the influence the Legion has had on him over the year. He recalled his early years when he attended Remembrance Day Ceremonies in Espanola as a child and young student. It was those memories that triggered a special day for him when he was travelling in Belgium some years ago. He says that on November 11th, 2014, he felt he had to do something to acknowledge the day, so he took a trip to a Commonwealth Cemetery. He said it was a beautiful, but such a sad place acknowledging the 977 souls buried there, of which 157 were Canadian. He was especially struck by the age of those who had made the ultimate sacrifice; mostly 18 and 19 years old, with the oldest being 22, the age he was at the time of his visit.
Burke told the audience he is especially proud of his (Espanola) Legion and the members that do so much for the community capping off his presentation with a toast to all those who served, are serving or will serve in the future.
MacPherson then opened the evening of accolades presenting special citations from Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing MP Carol Hughes and life-time memberships to John and Jane Byers and Leona Arnold who lost their sons, Private Dave Byers and Corporal Glen Arnold respectively in the war in Afghanistan. The trio received a standing ovation from those in attendance acknowledging their unwavering advocacy of the Legion, and their steadfast and personal stories of sacrifice for their country in memory of their late sons.
Following that special opening, various members were presented with service pins ranging from five to 50+ years. Fifty-year pin recipients including Susan Kryzanowski, Don Arbour, Ron Arbour, Evelyn Bourcier-Clendenning, James Bourcier, Judith Deline and George Shamass. Special presentations of 55-year pins were also made to Nick Rogozynski, Jack Fraser and Brent Tooley. Special citations were also presented with the pins to the long-time members and/or volunteers.
MacPherson also presented the Legionnaire of the Year Award to Corporal Greg Gilbert of the 2nd Battalion, Irish Regiment of Canada. Gilbert turned the tables on MacPherson presenting him with a surprise Presentation Award Medal. He explained that the medal of service resembles a large coin. It was presented to Indigenous troops during the earlier Colonial battles in Upper and Lower Canada, but because many of them did not wear shirts, the ribbons were removed and the troops were presented with the medal in hand with a handshake instead. Gilbert says the presentation was made to MacPherson for his years of service and dedication to not only the Legion, but its members on a personal basis going above and beyond what is expected for a man in his position. The moment brought MacPherson to tears, but he quickly recovered and the award presentations continued.
The President’s Choice Award was then presented to Charlie Bois for his work over the years and a special Lifetime Achievement Award was also presented to Robert Laplante for his many years of service to the Legion.
Photos by Rosalind Russell
Photo: Espanola Royal Canadian Legion President of Branch #9 Gary MacPherson opened the Legion’s Honours and Awards Night presenting special citations from Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing MP Carol Hughes and life-time memberships to John and Jane Byers and Leona Arnold who lost their sons, Private Dave Byers and Corporal Glen Arnold respectively in the war in Afghanistan. The trio received a standing ovation from those in attendance acknowledging their unwavering advocacy of the Legion, and their steadfast and personal stories of sacrifice for their country in memory of their late sons. Photos by Rosalind Russell