At the reception following the Remembrance Day ceremony, Mary Hubert, Linda Dunns & Margaret Bernhardt received Fifty Year Medals while Ruby McWilliams and Joan Kuzmiakas received 45 and 5 year pins.
Between the five of them, they’ve given over 200 years of volunteer service to the Royal Canadian Legion Branch #154 Caledonia.
On Nov. 11, following the town’s Remembrance Day service at the cenotaph, the community was invited back to the legion for a light lunch. There, five members of the Legion Ladies Auxiliary were recognized for their milestone years of service.
Legion president Dennis Zebiere noted that the group of volunteers, through catering and other fundraising activities, “has helped keep the legion in the black.”
He emphasized the need for more volunteers to join the auxiliary group.
Joan Kuzmickas, who received her five-year pin, had gotten involved when she responded to a similar call following a Remembrance Day service.
“I asked if they wanted help,” she said, and has been helping since.
Kuzmickas had always attended Remembrance Day services in person whenever she was able, to honour those in her family who had served.
Now, in a different kind of service role herself, Kuzmickas said she’s found “it’s been good, and the ladies are really friendly.”
While Kuzmickas started volunteering with the auxiliary in her late 60s, Lynda Dunn and twins Margaret Bernhardt and Mary Hubert started much younger.
“Our mothers made us come,” Dunn joked, and the three shared memories of helping their mothers prepare for legion events as children.
They were each given their 50-year service pins, as well as medals to commemorate the milestone.
Family was a big contributing factor behind Bernhardt and Hubert’s involvement; their grandfather, George Cain, was one of the founding members of the Caledonia legion almost 100 years ago.
Ruby McWilliams received a pin for 45 years of service. She said she was largely inspired to join the group because of her dad’s service in the First World War.
“He was (in France) in 1918,” McWilliams said. In 2004, she and her sister had the opportunity to go to a battlefield where he had been 86 years prior, almost to the day.
McWilliams said whenever her dad talked about the war, “He told us cute stories, not sad ones.”
Still, “I think he brought something back with him,” she said, beyond the visible scars; looking back now, she sees how he suffered emotional wounds, too.
One of the main roles legions fill is in advocating for and supporting veterans and their families, offering supports, programs and services to help them with their physical and mental health.
Thanks to Tamara Botting from The Sachem.