Eighty-six years ago, a group of people gathered at the Omega Cemetery in Gadsby and celebrated the first Decoration Day, a Remembrance Day-like ceremony honouring Canada’s war dead and its veterans.
This past Sunday, Aug. 28, a group of about 150 people came to the cemetery and continued the tradition.
According to Debbie Hansel, president of Gadsby’s Omega Circle, the Royal Canadian Legion was looking for a venue in which to hold an outdoor remembrance ceremony when they came across the Omega Cemetery.
“They found it very beautiful,” Hansel said of the grounds, which are to this day maintained with the utmost care and love. “The cenotaph had just been placed,” she added recalling the time of the first Decoration Day.
Since November, the traditional month for Remembrance activities, was “too cold” for the ceremony, the Legion and the original organizers opted to hold Decoration Day on the last Sunday of August, a tradition which continues today.
For the past half-decade or so, a group of army veterans have travelled from across Alberta, and sometimes from out of province, to attend the event in their red-and-black gear. The Canadian Army Vets biker group, also known as the “CAV Unit,” ride their motorcycles into Gadsby and come to honour their fellows during the event.
According to Hansel, the number of CAV Unit members started small, but each year there are more and more.
“It’s really nice to see,” she said.
The turn-out for the annual remembrance ceremony was also gratifying, Hansel said, given the weather at the time. Several of the audience had come with blankets to withstand the chilly, windy and cloudy weather, while others shivered, somewhat unprepared.
Reverend Ross Helgeton, Royal Canadian Legion Branch 59’s Susan Mitchell, and Omega Circle’s Viola Imrie all took turns speaking before Evelyn Shursen, a Legion member and guest speaker, spoke about the importance of the Legion, its history in first Gadsby and then Stettler, and the organization’s future.
After Marvyn Harris played last post on his trumpet and a moment of silence, the colour party departed while the gathered sang God Save the Queen, bringing the 86th Decoration Day to an end.