Mark Clairmont |

GRAVENHURST — War isn’t what it once was.

Remembrance Day, however, is.

An hour of simple solemnity steeped in shared memories past and present.

Charles Mortimer, 90, and Robert Nix, 77, were among more than 100 members of the public who gathered on the roadside grade overlooking the legion cenotaph and parade square as an equal number of anyone with a uniform stood at attention for two minutes of silence on an unusually warm 16-degree Nov. 11 morning.

Lest they forget.

Mortimer came from Timmins to “winter” in his hometown with son Mike and attend his first Nov. 11 back in many years.

Nix lives in Gravenhurst and seldom misses the opportunity to mark his 39 years in uniform starting in 1963.

Both Canadians were soldiers in the Canadian and American armies, who proudly bore chests full of medals. They may have shared pins and stars awarded decades apart, nevertheless their patriotism bore no difference.

Ninety-year-old Korean War veteran Charles Mortimer shows a small rare blue pin, on the right, he awarded by the Americans.

One commonality was American war commendations.

Nix is a veteran of three tours in Vietnam, the Gulf War (Operation Desert Storm) and the war involving Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo.

Mortimer was with the Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry in Korea and fought in the Battle of the Kapyong between his UN forces and the Chinese.

He says he was one of 200 fighters awarded a special blue pin he wore, personally presented by either U.S. President Harry Truman or General Douglas MacArthur.

Time has dimmed his memory of which one. But not the smile that passes his lips as he thinks back some 70 years.

Vietnam war veteran Robert Nix is one of the few veterans still living in Gravenhurst.

The two veterans were among the last few on hand to recall the three original great wars.

Several others had fleeting connections with relatives from those and more recent wars.

Together they paid dutiful respects to un-ending global conflicts, including now Ukraine and Russia.

Today’s ceremonies were reserved and respectful — not too unlike national remembrances coast to coast to coast.

Short on protocol, but long on meaning, branch #302 president Ted Hudson and zone E5 district commander Heather Schell commanded a truncated, hour-long service complete with dozens of wreaths laid in memory of those in town who died and other floral tributes on behalf of many businesses out to support the struggling local branch.

Afterwards the legion volunteers drove to the Mickle Cemetery, on the Beach Road, where they placed flags on a couple hundred gravesites in the legion section of the cemetery.

Lest anyone driving by forgets.

Robert Johns watched as them at a respectful distance while visiting his family’s nearby grave and that of his late wife Marlene.

The 90-year-old joked that he knew more of the veterans buried there than he does in town or the Granite Ridge Retirement Home where he lives now.

He pointed his cane at the headstones of several people’s names he recognized and remembered living in town when he grew up before he moved away when most of the jobs were only at Rubberset and the railway.

Service dog Hank checks out the wreaths during today’s hour-long service in Gravenhurst.
Muskoka Pioneer Army Cadet Sergeant Finn MacDonald stands guard before the commemorative service.
Today’s truncated service was reserved and respectful, on an unusually warm Nov. 11 morning and was well attended.
Parade marshal Laura Hoffman-Stieger directs school children who helped lay wreaths.
Legion member Dave Kingshot, who lowered the flag during the service, watches as students present wreaths to be placed along with others that were more officially presented.
Behind the scenes there’s a lot of work and organization that goes into the annual service.
Afterward many people left poppies from their lapels on wreaths and at the foot of the cenotaph.
Cadet Sergeant Quentin Battistini was glad to warm up his hands after his third sentry duty, following two overnight in Bracebridge.
Audrey Smith and legion president Ted Hudson cut a cake, donated by Sobey’s, as part of small coffee hour inside.
Legion members followed the branch service by placing flags at about 200 graves in Mickle Cemetery.
A wreath was laid at the grave of First World War veteran James Blackley, who was born 1883 and died in 1958.
Robert Johns, who is “pushing 90,” pays his respects at Mickle Cemetery afterward where he knew many of the veterans buried there.

After the parade dismissal many people left poppies on the cenotaph.


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