Lawrene Arsenault and her brother Bill McDonald were always close, but when McDonald went overseas with the Canadian Army in the Second World War, Arsenault really felt the distance.
“We didn’t hear from him much,” Arsenault said. “The part of the army he was in was the artillery and he was on the front line all the time, so I never got to really write to him.”
Arsenault added that it was difficult to adjust to her brother being gone.
“It took me a long time to realize that he wasn’t coming home,” Arsenault said. “But he would write me a little note every now and then. We had nicknames, I was ‘Skippy’ and he was ‘Skipper.’”
Scarborough resident Arsenault, 82, was only eight when her brother left for England in Sept. 1939; McDonald, now passed, was just 19. She remembered receiving letters from McDonald during the seven years he was away.
“I don’t know what he really told us,” Arsenault said. “It would be everyday things, that he was fine and that they didn’t know where they were going to be stationed later.”
Arsenault recalled a time when her brother appeared on the radio.
“In those days when you heard someone in your family was going to be on, you were glued to that radio,” she said. The officer here in Toronto, knew when Bill’s regiment was going to be on and he never told mom and dad, so we never heard him. If only we could have heard his voice.”
While he was overseas, Bill McDonald married an English woman and started a family. When her brother returned to Canada in June 1945 Arsenault experienced a bittersweet moment.
“We were down to meet him,” she said. “He didn’t recognize me. I was heartbroken to think my big brother didn’t know me.”
McDonald’s war bride Daphne came to Canada in August 1945.
“I just loved her from the day she came,” Arsenault said. “I guess ‘cause she was Bill’s wife.”