Squamish veterans remembered with new grave markers

Local researcher locates 40 forgotten cemetery plots, tracks down their stories

A decade ago, Ken Ward discovered that lying in Squamish’s cemetery were 40 forgotten plots  — many of them left unmarked — where veterans had been laid to rest.

At the time, Ward was the service officer for the Royal Canadian Legion Diamond Head Branch in Squamish. As he tried to fulfill their mandate to be there for veterans from the moment they enlist and into perpetuity, he went to inquire about those who had been laid to rest in Squamish.

article continues below

At the District, Ward found out about the 40 cemetery plots that the Legion owns in the Mount Garibaldi Cemetery. The first block of 16 plots was bought before 1959, then the rest were purchased from the District in 1959. By the early 2000s, however, the Legion’s members and executives didn’t know about the plots. All that time, some of the veterans’ graves were left unmarked.

For several years, the research into who these graves belong to hit a dead end. Then, Ward reached out to the Last Post Fund, a non-profit organization that provides funds for funerals and burials for veterans who can’t afford a service. The Last Post Fund also covers military markers for unmarked veterans’ graves.

Now, most of the graves have a marker. The process has taken years, the first was placed in 2014 and the most recent just last year. One plot holds remains of an unknown person.

As to why there weren’t markers before, Ward said, “No one had the money to put it there… It sat dormant for a while.”

In 2015, veteran and long-time Squamish resident William “Bill” Cole was laid to rest in one of the Legion’s vacant plots. He is the most recent veteran to be interred there.

In the Squamish Legion, four current members are WWII veterans, known as the Squamish Four. The family of Ted Arsenault — who turned 101 years old this October — have inquired about the Legion’s last vacant plot.

Ward is the lead for the Squamish Veterans Research committee of the Legion. The Last Post Fund was also able to provide enough information about the veterans in the Squamish cemetery for Ward to uncover more about each person. He got to work, writing short stories about them.

“They help to dignify and give some significance to the veterans. It’s nice to have a marker for perpetuity.”

He’d still like to see a plaque in Stan Clarke Park for the Squamish Honour Roll Call, to explain the 23 trees planted there in honour of the Squamish veterans who did not return from war. Every Remembrance Day since 1946, it is their names that are read out during Squamish ceremonies.

“We should thank them for our freedom,” Ward said.

While there were no ceremonies for placing the new markers, Ward said some members of the Legion will go to the cemetery in the days leading up to Remembrance Day to place Canadian flags and poppies on each veteran’s grave.

Ward also asks the Squamish community to share their veteran stories with the local Legion (Branch 277) Veteran Research Chairman, consider becoming a member of the Legion and share advice and encouragement for their research. Donations can be accepted, and more information found at www.squamishlegion.ca.

The president of the Squamish Legion, Art McLain, said they currently have 160 members. Thirty are ordinary — meaning they have served or are currently serving — while the associate members have a family member or spouse who served. Five of the Squamish Legion members are life members.

The Legion stands, primarily, for remembrance, McLain told The Chief. Without members, the Legion would cease to exist. The memories they preserve and share could also fade. McLain said, for members, being a part of the Legion helps remind them what we have, and what has been sacrificed to have it.

*This story has been updated to show that the Legion has 30 ordinary members. It previously said honourary members.

Read Related Topics

@ Copyright Squamish Chief