Our November cover salutes Remembrance Day and Pender’s local veterans. I doubt that any community does a better job of sincerely “remembering.” Fifteen years ago, Doug Pirie, President of the Pender Island Legion, was the driving force behind a plan to involve our local school children in a candle lighting ceremony to honour local veterans buried in the Pender Island Public Cemetery.
This year, because Remembrance Day falls on a Saturday and there are no classes on Friday, the school children will place the candles Thursday, November 9 at 1:30 pm at the Pender Island Public Cemetery. The children travel by bus to the cemetery and walk with a veteran to place a candle on each of the more than 125 crosses that identify veterans who served so proudly on behalf of all Canadians in war and peace. For some of the students it may be their first exposure to Remembrance Day, and could be an emotional one as they come across a grandfather or uncle or aunt, and begin to recognize for themselves the sacrifices made.
The candle placement is followed by a short get-together at the Legion where the students learn about Remembrance Day, and have an opportunity to hear stories firsthand from veterans or a veteran’s family members. The event is both a learning experience and an opportunity to participate. The Legion get-together includes donuts and juice, courtesy of the Esquimalt Tim Horton’s, an active supporter and participant for many years.
At 6 pm on Friday, November 10, the candles on each cross will be lit and the public is invited to take a moment to pause and remember. By the time this unique remembrance is concluded, darkness has fallen. The red glow of the candles and the sound of the lone piper is both moving, and memorable.
In addition to the candle lighting ceremony, Pender students are encouraged to exercise their creative talents by entering posters on the subject of “What Remembrance Day means to me.” The posters can be in black and white or colour. The Pender winning posters go on to Victoria to compete in the Southern Vancouver Island Zone (Victoria to Nanaimo). Winners of the zone advance to the Provincial competition and eventually, if their submission is really exceptional, to the national competition. The winners at that last level go to Ottawa and meet the Prime Minister on Remembrance Day. Although Pender kids have not yet made it to that last level, the competition is about learning, understanding, empathizing, and honouring. And through the co-operation of the school and the local Canadian Legion, Pender students are indeed well-schooled.
The actual Remembrance Day service at the Pender Island Legion is no less unique. No matter where else you have attended a Remembrance Day service, chances are it was in a larger community. On Pender, you may recognize your neighbour’s kid representing the island’s school children. You might golf with the now scrubbed and polished politician or the bugler, or one or more members of the colour guard, or members of our beloved Pender Island Pipe Band.
Even if you don’t know any of the official participants, you’ll likely know some of the people or pets standing next to you at the outdoor service. Pender Island Remembrance Day comes with a definite feeling of sharing and connection...connection to the community and to those being honoured.
In closing, I would like to thank John Pender for the writing and research provided for this article, and to Colin Denton as well as staff members of our Pender Island School.