The Stettler community hall was filled to capacity Saturday as mourners paid their final respects to Jack Chapman, a man some people described as “larger than life.”
An estimated 700 people attended the funeral of the revered Second World War veteran.
Chapman, 92, was one of Stettler’s few remaining veterans. He died on New Year’s Day in a farm-related accident on his farm, which he operated southeast of Stettler with his wife Madeleine.
Stettler Fire and Rescue reported this week that fire crews assisted Stettler EMS last Tuesday morning “in removing a patient trapped under farm machinery.”
Chapman was a lifelong resident of the Stettler area, except for his wartime years.
“He was courageous, had strong convictions and was not known to hold back,” longtime friend Lorne Thurston said of Chapman. “He was a loyal friend.”
Chapman was a prisoner of war in the Dieppe Raid at France in August 1942. He not only survived that three-year ordeal, but his comrades also credited him for saving their lives with his “bravery, resourcefulness and charm.”
At the funeral service, Thurston and his wife Kathy were among those who paid tribute to Chapman.
Thurston spent more than 37 years with Chapman in Stettler’s Branch No. 59 of the Royal Canadian Legion.
He said his proudest moment was to walk with “a true hero — Jack Chapman.”
For many Stettler-area residents, Chapman and the Legion seemed synonymous. The highly visible war hero rarely missed a Legion functions since returning home from the war when it ended in 1945.
Not only was he involved in the local branch, but he was active nationally and travelled abroad.
“He had a strong, positive influence on Veteran Affairs,” Thurston said.
Chapman was a perennial favourite to speak at Remembrance Day services and to students of all ages. He was active in the poppy campaign.
He was described as being a storyteller — of real-life stories — and often shared his wartime experiences.
Chapman delighted in giving young students a Canadian flag on Canada Day.
Thurston said Chapman believed in helping his community and was a volunteer with rodeos, sports, the agricultural society and as a longtime parade marshal.
Thurston summed up Chapman’s strong-willed character as “a fighter,” saying he survived the war, the loss of a child and many illnesses.
One of the mourners Saturday said Chapman was a Stettler standout.
“If we ever had a local hero, it was Jack,” she said. “It really was.”
Ken Cherewko, past-president of the Stettler branch of the Legion, recalled Chapman’s influence on the branch.
“He had the answers,” Cherewko said.
He said Chapman was always available for advice and was willing to share his opinion.
Cherewko said Chapman held every position in the local Legion and was the first vice-president in the national organization.
“He kept Stettler updated.”
Cherewko said Chapman hadn’t been active in the regular day-to-day operations of the Stettler Legion in recent years.
“He left that to us younger ones. He still took part in major functions, like Decoration Day at Gadsby.
“We are all going to miss him.”
One of Chapman’s neighbours, Ron Scheerschmidt, said Chapman died doing what he enjoyed — feeding his cattle.
“I’ve known Jack all my life and he definitely didn’t want to waste away in a nursing home — he went the way he wanted.”
Scheerschmidt said Chapman actively farmed in his advanced years, with the help of his wife, and had just purchased a few more cows.
He remembers Chapman as being an early riser. “He was always up way before the birds,” said Scheerschmidt, who also recalled Chapman’s determination.
“He wouldn’t let go until it was accomplished.”
He said getting public washrooms in Stettler and renaming 50 Avenue “Veterans’ Way” were just a couple of those accomplishments.
“He was a character of his own — he was a good neighbour,” Scheerschmidt said.
Along with his wife, Chapman is survived by three sons, Dan (Linda) Chapman, Jim Chapman (Winnie Litvak) and Lee (Sarah) Chapman; two daughters, Marnie (Clark) Hoskins and Kim (Kelsey) Hoetmer; eight grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.