By Cecilia Nasmith
Ray Heffernan hopes June 6 will be remembered as the 75th anniversary of D-Day, and that Cobourg citizens might observe it by dropping into the Victoria Hall foyer and reading the names of local citizens who served in the defence of their country – and, in some cases, were lost.
Addressing this week's committee-of-the-whole council meeting, he recalled the 2017 trip on which he accompanied St. Mary Secondary School students to France to commemorate the centennial of the Battle of Vimy Ridge.
They also visited Juno Beach and nearby Beny-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery, viewing the markers of more than 2,000 Canadians lost, reading their names and ages and the dates they lost their lives (mostly June 6 or not long thereafter).
It was just one of dozens of such cemeteries throughout Europe, he added. It is his belief that helping to commemorate the D-Day anniversary is one way to honour those who served – and especially those who never came home.
Heffernan also shared some slides that showed the Canadian maple leaf inscribed in the markers of the Canadians in Beny-sur-Mer. One of them was a family relative of his. In the decades that had passed since D-Day, he was the first surviving family member to see it in person.
“I took great pride to represent the family, but also to stand among all those grave markers,” he said.
Councillor Emily Chorley had also made the Vimy Ridge pilgrimage and seen the cemetery.
“It was very striking how well they are maintained, and to see the scale of loss of life and sacrifice there,” she commented.
Council heard that Cobourg student journalist Graham Beer is at Normandy Beach, and will file stories and interviews to his website.
As well, Mayor John Henderson added, council will be visited by some Canadian Forces reservists in the near future for a presentation on their re-enactment of the Italian-expedition march of that same time period.
Deputy Mayor Suzanne Seguin made a motion to invite Cobourg residents into the Victoria Hall foyer to read the framed memorials to the sons of the town who served, to foster awareness and help honour their sacrifice.
Her motion also took a line from Heffernan's presentation: “May our present serving members of the Canadian Forces and those who have served since the end of World War II know that we hold them and their service in the highest esteem.”
Following the motion's passage, Henderson reminded council that the Victoria Hall Volunteers completely restored these framed acknowledgments from an historical perspective to preserve their beautiful artistic appearance – one of which was done by artist A.J. Casson, also known as a member of the Group of Seven.
“If you haven't taken the time to read those beautiful manuscripts of names that have been refurbished to the nth degree, I would urge you to visit Victoria Hall,” he said.