Hundreds of Torontonians gathered outside the East York Civic Centre Memorial Gardens Nov. 11 to pay their respects to those who fought for our country.
The Remembrance Day memorial began with a march down Coxwell Avenue from East York Collegiate Institute to the Civic Centre at 10:30 a.m. with attendance by veterans, cadets, public service workers, political figures and other people from the community.
Dominic Capalbo, 70, president of The Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 345, was one of many who formed up for the march and was pleased with the turn-out.
“It was great. Probably one of our best,” he said. “Every year it gets better. There was a great mix of people including the veterans and cadets and the service was beautiful.”
Capalbo has been president of his branch for four years. He made the decision to join the legion when he retired to pay respects to his father, who belonged to Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI).
Following the East York service, Branch 345 held their own service at their legion at Victoria Park and St. Clair avenues.
Branch 345 member, Allan Hewton, 86, who served in the Second World War as a tank wireless operator, said Nov. 11 is more than just a day to remember.
“Of course we remember all of our fallen comrades and think of the past,” he said. “But it’s also nice to reminisce with old friends. It doesn’t have to be a sad time.”
District Hospital Chairman for the branch, Ernie Maddocks, 81, agreed adding that veterans would rather think of the good times, than the bad things that happened during the war.
“It’s a time to remember those who passed and the one’s who are in the same position now as I was when I was young,” he said. “Most veterans don’t want to speak of what they did in the war; it wasn’t nice, but it’s still good to remember.”
Maddocks joined the service when he was 17 years old. He fought for four years during the Second World War in the British Army and also served in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers Corps (REME).
Last night, cadets held a vigil from 10 p.m. to 10 a.m. and stood guard around the Cenotaph for the very first time. Cadets Manojen Manikkarajan, 18 and Patrick McDonnell, 17 think joining the service is very important.
“It’s a good way to meet new friends, but it also changes your lifestyle,” Manikkarajan said. “It makes you a better person.”
McDonnell says although they are given the chance to attend specialty camps during the summer, the personal gratification from being a cadet is enough.
“It’s a way to give back to the community,” Mcdonell said. “We do a lot of volunteer work and it makes you feel really good about yourself.”
Something people aren’t generally aware of is the money raised through selling poppies does not go to the branch.
“People don’t realize that the branches can’t spend the money. It goes to a poppy trust fund that helps veterans in need,” Maddocks said. “If a veteran requires a wheel chair, hearing aid, glasses or anything else and can’t afford it, we help. It’s important for people to know that.”