Poppy volunteer remembers a father’s military service

This week, Joanne Barden stood at the entrance of the newly opened Target store on Danforth Avenue. She had a box of poppies slung around her neck.

“Two young men… they took poppies and made a donation … and they told me they respected our veterans very much, and they respected the military, and I found that extremely rewarding,” she said.

Barden never served in the military. Yet, she calls herself a “poppy volunteer.”

The memory of the veterans in her family motivates Barden to volunteer. Her grandfather, Isaac Barden, served in the military in the First World War, he served at Vimy Ridge. But in particular, Barden praises her father, Leslie William Barden, and his Second World War service.

“My father was very well-educated… He wanted to join the war effort and away he went,” Barden said.

He landed with Canadian Forces as an artillery sergeant at Juno Beach and served in the battlefields of France and Holland. He re-enlisted after the War and served as an operations officer in the Middle East between 1954 and1957, retiring as a major. When he died, Leslie Barden was buried in the in a military grave just outside of Montreal.

Each Remembrance Day, Joanne Barden gives time volunteering to sell poppies through her Legion.

“We have a poppy board and everyone who wants to volunteer puts their name on the board… the days, the times,” Barden said. “The Legion takes very good care of the volunteers.”

In addition, through the Ladies’ Auxiliary, she visits Sunnybrook Hospital to help out with the veterans there. During her time as a poppy volunteer, Joanne Barden has composed a poem dedicated to her father:

“I never saw their faces/ I never touched their hands/ Through my father’s teaching,” the poem read. “He made me understand/ The blood-red poppies stands for freedom/ Lets me walk this land/ They left their homes and families, others left the books open in the study hall/ They rallied to the cause of freedom when they heard the piper call.”