The Royal Canadian Legion’s Jan. 1 event served a dual purpose — it welcomed in the new year, and also welcomed a group of new members, initiated before a good crowd of locals who came out to celebrate both occasions.
There were the usual toasts to Queen, country and the Legion, along with speeches from dignitaries. Legion president Paul Eramian said he is proud to be president at a time when the branch is prosperous, “both in membership and financially.”
Lord Mayor Betty Disero thanked the branch members for all they do, saying their work makes NOTL “a friendlier town,” and MPP Wayne Gates thanked the veterans, adding, “it’s because of them we’re here to celebrate.”
Gates also spoke of Korean War veterans who are struggling, often in hospital wards with five or six people to a room. “We have to do better for veterans at the end of their lives,” he said, asking the Legion to work with him on improving veterans’ living conditions.
Gail Dietsch, long-time resident of Niagara-on-the-
Lake, was one of the members initiated on New Year’s Day. She visits the Legion periodically, she said, and decided to become a member to pay tribute to her father and her stepfather.
Her father, William Chester Charles Bowman, was a career soldier, and was in charge of the army camp in Niagara in the ’60s, she said, and her stepfather, Carl Doucette, was a Second World War veteran.
“I felt I never paid my stepfather enough attention while he was living. Now, it’s too little, too late — he passed away two years ago.”
Joining the Legion, she said, seemed a way “to remember and honour both of them.”
Dietsch says she also wants to become more involved and help out at the Legion, and joining, she added, “hopefully will motivate me.”
Karen Taylor-Jones became a member of the Legion to honour her father, Bertram Taylor, who was a veteran of the Second World War. He served as a mechanic, working on the Lancaster bombers, and when he returned from overseas he became the Postmaster of NOTL.
“The Legion is a social hub, and it needs help. Joining is my way of supporting it.”
Taylor-Jones and Dietsch joined Richard Meyer, Tim Hills, Leila Ram, John Hunter, and David McCurdy in becoming members of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 124 on New Year’s Day.