What started out as a small commemoration has grown into a tribute for veterans buried at All Saints’ Anglican Church Cemetery in Westholme on a larger scale.
Mike Bieling and Sherry Deptuch made the placement of white crosses at gravesites happen initially before an expansion of the formalities took hold within the community. It’s now been 15 years and the tribute has become a very important part of the lead-up to Remembrance Day for family members of those buried at the cemetery.
“I’m really pleased to see how the community has joined us and embraced this,” said Bieling, who directs the Old Cemeteries Society and guides veteran cross placements at cemeteries throughout the Cowichan Valley.
The latest gathering in Westholme Oct. 26 included seven members of 100 Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corps Admiral Mainguy, led by Slt. Camille Stewart, to place 45 crosses on the graves of veterans in the historic churchyard on the bank of the Chemainus River.
The Corps’ namesake, Westholme-born Vice-Admiral E. Rollo Mainguy (1901-1979) of the Royal Canadian Navy, was among them.
“We have a lovely morning for this, too,” Bieling told the gathered crowd. “We’ve been lucky that way.”
He had his list organized in advance and the cadets went to each of the sites to place the crosses and salute the departed veterans.
The proceedings concluded with piper Rod Booth.
About 1,000 Cowichan Valley veterans are recognized with veterans’ remembrance crosses, but hundreds still remain unknown to commemoration organizers, according to Bieling.
“The work of identifying them continues as part of the Old Cemeteries Society’s ‘Lest We Forget Where They Lie’ project,” he indicated.
The cross placement events honour the service and sacrifice of the Cowichan Valley’s veterans and today’s cadets and volunteers continue to respect this local custom.
The first Armistice Day observation was authorized by King George V to mark the first anniversary of the end of the First World War on Nov. 11, 1918.
Remembrance Day services will be marked this year next Monday, Nov. 11 at 11 a.m. at the Chemainus Cenotaph on Willow Street.