Lionel Binette at the 2018 Remembrance Day ceremony in Nelson. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

99-year-old Nelson veteran dies

Lionel Binette was well known for his annual recitation of In Flanders Fields on Remembrance Day

A Nelson veteran whose sonorous recitation of In Flanders Fields was a staple of the city’s Remembrance Day ceremonies for years has died at 99.

Lionel Binette passed away March 12. He was a search and rescue survival trainer with the Royal Canadian Air Force and just before retirement wrote the Canadian Forces survival book Down But Not Out.

Binette was born in Retlaw, Alta. in 1919 and lived in the St. Paul area for many years. He met Irene Guertin in Vancouver and they were married for 68 years until her death in 2010.

The couple endured over 65 moves across Canada as part of his military career before finally putting down roots in the Kootenay. They lived at Kootenay Bay and then later in Nelson, where Binette was active with the Royal Canadian Legion.

Each year he recited the war poem In Flanders Fields from memory, adding vibrato to phrases such as “row on row,” which you can hear in the recording below, courtesy of 103.5 Juice FM.

Before reciting the poem in 2017, he told the crowd: “Sometimes I start musing and I wonder what the world would be like if we hadn’t [won] either of the two World Wars. We’re so fortunate to have peace and quiet, opportunities to meet … All I can say is it’s so wonderful.”

Binette marked his 99th birthday last November at the Legion lounge — immediately after taking a helicopter ride around the area. He is survived by a brother, two children, six grandchildren, and seven great grandchildren.

A celebration of life is planned Sunday at 1 p.m. in the Royal Canadian Legion lounge.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Binette was survived by three children. Also, according to his daughter, he did not serve overseas during World War II.

Correction: An earlier version of this story said Binette was Nelson’s oldest veteran. Eric Smith, who served in the Royal Canadian Airforce, is older.

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