Eric Bunnell’s People: St. Thomas vet receives French honour

May 3, 2018

By Eric Bunnell, Special to Postmedia Network

Thursday, May 3, 2018 4:07:18 EDT PM

With pomp and circumstance, including a Royal Canadian Legion colour guard, 94-year-old St. Thomas veteran Albert Carr recently received the decoration which signifies he now is a Knight of the French Legion of Honour.

The red-ribonned Maltese cross was presented to Carr, now living in retirement at Elgin Manor, by EML Tory MP Karen Vecchio.

France in 2013 announced it would nominate all living D-Day veterans to the highest national order of the country.

Carr, a private in the Essex Scottish Regiment, was captured during the invasion and remained a PoW until the end of the war.

Uniformed participants in the presentation included Carr’s son, Rev. James Carr, Ingersoll, a retired Anglican priest and padre of Ingersoll Royal Canadian Legion Branch 119, and great-grandson, Warrant Officer Sam Lambert, 109 Ingersoll Cadet Corps.

The colour party was supplied by Port Stanley Legion Branch 410, which annually organizes a Remembrance Service at Elgin Manor.

“That was a day I’ll remember for a long time,” says Art Mayo, Branch 410 sergeant-at-arms, who added the presentation is the first local recognition he is aware of.

He says there were tears.

James Carr called the presentation “a moving ceremony” which sparked memories for his father.

In a letter accompanying the decoration, Kareen Rispal, French ambassador to Canada, says:

“This distinction … illustrates the profound gratitude that France would like to express to you.”

Adds the envoy:

“Through you, France remembers the sacrifice of all your compatriots who came to liberate French soil.”

Carr retired as a maintenance mechanic from Canada Vitrified, where he worked all his adult life.

Following the war, he and his wife Dorothy raised a family of four children, James, Tom, Aylmer, Shirley Goos and Barbara Calvert, St. Thomas.

* * *

James notes more than 1,000 Canadian veterans have received the French honour, which Veterans Affairs promoted to local Legions and veterans’ associations.

But, sadly, he says, a number who deserve it, have not. And he shares a concern that many aging veterans, including those too modest to apply, will pass unrecognized.

* * *

Go, Jets!

But more importantly – c’mon, ice hockey in May!?! — the Graney Gang is back on the mound and has thrown first pitch in a renewed effort for long-overdue Baseball Hall of Fame recognition for Jack “Glad” Graney.

He’s the St. Thomas MLB great whose many firsts in the game include being the first pro player to make the move into the broadcast booth.

The Gang is a group of largely-hometown Graney fans, and Glad’s granddaughter Perry Mudd Smith shares that she has written Cooperstown to advance consideration of the two-times World Series champion Cleveland Indian for the 2019 Ford C. Frick Award for baseball broadcasting.

The Gang tried hard last time the award recognized Graney’s pioneer, radio era, but the 2016 Frick went to another.

But, as Yogi Berra said, it ain’t over ‘til its over. The Gang pledged to not give up.

Gangster local historian Steve Peters in 2015:

“Strike One. 2019 is next at bat.”

Perry in an email to the Gang is encouraged by the response from the Hall of Fame, which notes Graney is well known to the organization, where Graney is well-represented in historical records.

Pens John Shestakofsky, VP communications and education:

“Mr. Graney is an important figure in Baseball history, and as such the Hall of Fame has gathered materials that make note of his significant contributions to the game.”

Perry:

“This is the most response we’ve ever gotten from the Hall, so it’s encouraging.

“The list of candidates is only revealed in September and the voting by the committee takes place around November. The winner is announced at their winter meeting in December. This year they have done away with the online voting. We probably messed up their server last time with our voting.

“I have no doubt that Jack got the most online votes, thanks to you, our family, friends and Graney supporters all over the world voting daily.”

And a footnote. Perry says her mother, Margo Graney Mudd, is 96 and doing well.

* * *

Heritage takes centre stage next week at the Princess Avenue Playhouse, where the St. Thomas Elgin branch of Architectural Conservancy Ontario on Tuesday is to present sixth annual awards recognizing stewardship of our built and environmental history.

Raising the level of awareness of importance of our heritage is the major work of the organization, which rose out of the ashes of Alma College, this community’s greatest heritage failure.

Among eight 2018 awards, recognition not only for architectural preservation but also for two people whose vocation has been preservation of our stories – every bit just as important as bricks and mortar, says awards chair Serge Lavoie.

“… If you don’t have that stuff collected and turned into something … you tend to lose it. It gets lost in the memories – we tend to forget where we came from.”

To be honoured in this category, Don Cosens and the late Wayne Paddon.

Their citations:

Don Cosens, for his lifetime of collecting and preserving the heritage artifacts and stories of our St. Thomas and Elgin communities.

Wayne Paddon for his lifetime of heritage education that helped promote the importance of our shared history in St. Thomas and Elgin county.

Don, retired deputy land registration, in 2010 was recipient of a Lieutenant Governor’s Ontario Heritage Award for his work.

Wayne, history teacher and high school principal, was author of five local histories.

Together, both men were co-authors of the civic centennial tome, St. Thomas: 100 Years a City (along with George Thorman and Brian Sim).

Wayne passed in 2015. His widow, Lois, is to attend with daughter Dr. Connie Robertson.

The evening at the historic playhouse, 40 Princess Ave. (the re-purposed St. Thomas Christian Church itself, an ACO honoree) begins 7 p.m. Admission free. All welcome.

* * *

Spring finally arrives this week and the heritage Cornelian cherry tree at Elgin Military Museum is in magnificent, full bloom (and a definite go-see) but who already is looking to summer – the Knights of Columbus, with a save-the-date for Summerfest 2018.

The funder this year for STEGH cancer care is June 16 and at a new venue – a 400-seat Big Top to go up in the K of C parking lot off Wellington Street.

“We have wanted to go outside for some time now, to capture that summer feeling, and now we are taking the plunge” says committee member Dave McCormick (who also convenes Elgin Theatre Guild’s popular music program).

Headlining the 11th annual party is Hotel California – “the best tribute band in Canada doing all Eagles material,” Dave says – with local Darkhorse (cousins, brothers and sister John Bottineau, Mike Regan, Tim Regan, and Ann Marie Moore) opening.

And ‘cause it’s Father’s Day weekend, some “dad-type things” as well.

There you have it!

ericbunnellspeople@gmail.com