A plaque recently placed on a West Kootenay mountain in memory of a Nelson soldier has inspired a national organization to challenge residents to climb other local peaks in acts of remembrance.
The Canadian Remembrance Torch issued the Nelson Proud! challenge, which asks the community to collect remembrance torch photos on each mountain named after a Nelson-area World War II vet.
Karen Hunter, the initiative’s founder, notes that all ceremonies planned in May to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day were cancelled due to COVID-19. The anniversary of Victory over Japan Day on Aug. 15 will be marked quietly as well, and Remembrance Day will likely be restricted.
“After months indoors, it’s a great opportunity to get outside and go somewhere. Since all 75th anniversary commemorations this year are virtual, [this] allows Canadians to physically embrace remembrance in a meaningful way.”
To participate, you’re asked to create personal remembrance torches by going to https://canadianremembrancetorch.ca/the-torch-be-yours, then trek to one of the mountain tops, and hold the torches aloft.
Photos of these moments will be shared on social media and the Canadian Remembrance Torch’s website and become part of a Remembrance Week tribute in November.
While they have issued a general challenge to encourage Canadians to seek out World War II memorials — especially geographical features named after soldiers — Hunter says they have also issued a Nelson-specific call.
The plaque that inspired the local challenge was placed on Mount Hoover by the family of Pte. James Earl Hoover of the Calgary Highlanders Regiment, who died in 1945 at age 20.
According to Sylvia Crooks’ book Homefront and Battlefront: Nelson BC in World War II, Hoover was “a young man of great promise.” His regiment was in battle for Hochwald Forest in Western Germany when he was killed less than a month after arriving at the front.
Compounding the tragedy, he’d taken a voluntary demotion from corporal to private to see action.
Hoover’s family moved to Nelson from Medicine Hat in 1938, and he attended junior and senior high school here. Crooks writes that he displayed leadership in his school activities and the army cadets. He participated in student government, and was an avid hunter, fisher, and soccer player.
He served in the Rocky Mountain Rangers during his final year of high school — during which he had the highest marks in the Kootenays on provincial exams — then enlisted with the army in 1943.
Although he earned a scholarship to UBC, he decided to go to Queen’s University instead to study science and engineering in an army-sponsored program. He went overseas in late 1944 and served as an infantry instructor in England before joining the Calgary Highlanders for active service.
He was buried Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery in the Netherlands.
Mount Hoover, northwest of Nelson at the head of South Lemon creek, was officially named after him in 1962. Hoover’s namesake nephew isn’t sure how or why that particular peak was chosen. The family’s efforts to place a plaque at its summit required some searching.
“It is really just a knoll,” Jim Hoover said, “so I carried a friend’s GPS so we got the right peak to place the plaque.”
Other Nelson soldiers of World War II with peaks named after them, as detailed in Crooks’ book, are as follows. Most are near Nelson or in the Slocan Valley, but a few are in East Kootenay or on the Arrow Lakes. Exact co-ordinates can be found on the BC Geographical Names website.
• Matthew Aylmer, Mount Aylmer, south of Fraser Narrows, West Arm of Kootenay Lake
• John Beattie, Mount Beattie, west side of Five Mile Creek, in West Arm Provincial Park (this one is also marked with a plaque)
• Wilbur Bentz, Bentz Peak, northwest of Krestova
• Edward Cornfield, Mount Cornfield, head of Sitkum Creek on west side of Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park
• Oscar Dorval, Mount Dorval, head of Hail and Ice Creeks, southeast of Burton on the east side of Lower Arrow Lake
• James Eccles, Mount Eccles, headwaters of Trozzo Creek, northwest of Nelson
• Larry Flynn, Mount Flynn, north of junction of Cougar and Koch Creeks, southwest of Slocan
• John and Robert Hampton Gray, Grays Peak, between headwaters of Kokanee and Coffee Creeks, south end of Kokanee Glacier Park
• Jon Harlow, Mount Harlow, west of Hoder Creek, west of Slocan
• Henry Hartridge, Mount Hartridge, south of entrance to West Arm of Kootenay Lake
• James Hughes, Mount Hughes, just west of Golden
• John Kubin, Mount Kubin, west of Mount Grohman at head of Baldface Creek, north of Nelson
• Charles Lequereux, Mount Lequereux, west of upper Koch Creek
• Robert Ludlow, Mount Ludlow, between Hoder and Koch Creeks, west of Slocan
• Kenneth McBride, Mount McBride, head of Heart Creek in the Valkyr Range, east side of Lower Arrow Lake, south of Burton
• Hugh McKean, Mount McKean, between heads of Hoder and Koch Creeks, just west of Valhalla Provincial Park
• Frederick Peters, Mount Peters, northwest of Nelson
• Michael Prestley, Mount Prestley, southeast side of Valhalla Lake, northwest of Nelson in Valhalla Provincial Park
• Terence Rowley, Mount Rowley, southeast side of Blackwater Mountain at southeast side of Kinbasket Lake, northwest of Golden
• Iverson Ruppel, Mount Ruppel, west of boundary of Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park, north of Nelson
• Edward Sardelow, Mount Shardelow, southwest of head of Koch Creek, east of Lower Arrow Lake
• Stuart Spiers, Mount Spiers, between heads of Grizzly and Russel Creeks, west of Little Slocan River
• John Stubbs, Mount Stubbs, east of Wilson Creek, Goat Range Park
Several local creeks are also named for Nelson-area vets killed in World War II.