Beach Memories: Graves of soldiers buried at St. John’s Norway Cemetery a place to remember and honour Canada’s fallen

Gene Domagala stands by the monument to Canadian soldiers buried in the St. John's Norway Cemetery at Woodbine Avenue and Kingston Road. Beach Metro News file photo.

By GENE DOMAGALA

Well over two million men and women have served in Canada’s Armed Forces in the past 120 years. They represented the navy, army and air force in the cause of freedom in our great country of Canada.

Countless thousands died and were buried in far off graves in other countries as well as here in Canada. They shall never be forgotten.

During this COVID-19 pandemic threat across the entire world, including Canada and Toronto, we must be extra vigilant in order not to catch or spread this disease. So we must adhere to our medical and civil authorities to not assemble in certain groups or in large numbers. Therefore, many of our Nov. 11

Remembrance Day ceremonies will have to take a different approach for this year.

We cannot gather and honour our fallen comrades in the large numbers that we have in past years at the Kew Gardens Cenotaph (or other local cenotaphs) this year.

Instead, the ceremonies will be held virtually but they will still take place.

In the meantime, there are many religious places that have memorials to our great veterans.

There are schools that also have memorials to our men and women who have served. Think about visiting some of these places and paying your respects.

One local place in particular deserves our attention and that is St. John’s Norway Cemetery. This is a place in my mind that is one of the most sacred areas for our veterans. In this cemetery there are hundreds of graves in memory of Canada’s and our East End heroes.

St. John’s Norway is one of the oldest and the best examples of tribute that can be given to our soldiers. So take some time out to take a walk to Kingston Road and Woodbine Avenue and look at the graves and think about them, their lives and their deeds.

This can be done safely by just one or two people at a time. Remembrance Day can be observed and those who sacrificed can be remembered not just in large ceremonies but also in solitude.

In the Toronto area there are approximately 47 Royal Canadian Legion branches. We are fortunate in having a number of these Legion branches in the East End which will carry on the Remembrance Day tradition on Nov. 11, but not at events that are open to the public this year. These great Royal Canadian Legion

Branches will carry on the tradition in their hearts and spirits.

I am sure that you fellow Beachers and East Enders will remember in your minds and hearts these more than two million Canadians, and that their dedication and service to our country will never be forgotten.

I cannot emphasize enough to my fellow Beachers and East Enders to remember these great Canadians.

I can keep writing about the different wars and conflicts that they were in, but I think it can be told better in this poem written by a great Canadian – John McCrae:

“In Flanders Fields the poppies grow
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.”


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