Remembrance Day: Service needed for one who served

Second World War veteran Bob Conn can’t join the chorus of For the Fallen when the Seniors Club of his Royal Canadian Legion branch recites the poem.

Although the poem has special significance on the upcoming Remembrance Day, the Seniors Club at Branch 22 of the Legion delivers it at every weekly gathering.

“We will remember them,” the Seniors Club pledges.

Meanwhile, Conn sits downstairs in the clubroom.

Conn, 91, has belonged to this branch of the Royal Canadian Legion for 32 years, serving as the volunteer treasurer for its Seniors Club.

These days, however, he’s too frail to climb the stairs to attend the second-floor meetings, so he usually stays in the Legion’s basement.

Branch treasurer David Morgan explained how Conn remains part of the meetings, even when he can’t attend them.

“Bob sends his dough up because he can’t make the stairs,” Morgan said.

This fall, Woodbine Avenue’s Branch 22 and its president, Duane Gordon, will pursue a government grant to install a chairlift for disabled seniors like Conn. The $25,000 New Horizons for Seniors Program grant subsidizes projects that encourage seniors to participate in their communities.

Although Branch 22 received the Ontario Trillium Foundation Grant six years ago, the provincial government forbade it from buying a chairlift because Pape Avenue’s Todmorden Branch already had one.

The grant stipulated that no two branches in the same district can spend grant money on such technology, Gordon said.

Conn, a corporal machine gunner with the Toronto Scottish Regiment during the Second World War, has dedicated decades of service to Branch 22.

He still hands out poppies on Remembrance Day, and has every year since the war ended.

“Guys like Bob built this place,” Gordon said. “He’s a fixture in here… If a member has been at this branch, they don’t want to go to another one.”

Gordon insisted that accommodating Second World War veterans is a top priority the Legion. He added that his branch hasn’t forgotten veterans such as Bob Conn.

“If a veteran speaks in here, we listen,” Gordon said. “You just have to keep things going for them.”

Former Branch 22 President Linda Collins insisted on the importance of preserving relationships with veterans.

“We don’t have a whole lot of vets left,” she said. “In a few years most of them won’t be able to make it up the stairs.”