Raab Smith wept during the silence.
The 46-year-old sat in front of the cenotaph Friday during the annual Remembrance Day ceremony. Smith, who served with the United States Navy during the first Gulf War, used the moment to remember the people he went to war with during his eight months overseas.
“I lost a lot of friends,” he said.
He clenched his fist as planes flew overhead in formation. “My shipmates need me,” said Smith. “I have to be here for them because they would be here for me.”
Smith wasn’t the only immigrant to Nelson on hand to remember the fallen.
Standing nearby, 94-year-old Hendrika Cherenko laid a wreath for the Ladies Auxiliary with the Eagles Lodge. Cherenko was born in Holland and met her husband John during the Second World War. John was there with a Canadian artillery division, and when the fighting ended the pair moved to Nelson in February 1947 with the first of their three children.
John’s family lived in Taghum, and it took time for Hendrika to adjust to life in the Kootenays.
“It was a culture shock to say the least on several fronts,” she said.” [John] wrote about the Queen City of Nelson. Well, I’ve come to love it but it was hardly a Queen City to me [having] grown up in a real city. And also entry into a Doukhobor family. In ’47, in those years, [Doukhobors] were very separate. I wasn’t welcome, let’s put it that way.”
Cherenko — who joked the army lost an extra ‘n’ from her name when she married John — can’t remember how long she’s been a part of the ceremony. John died nearly 22 years ago, and she makes a point of returning to City Hall every Remembrance Day in his memory. “For him, and for the Eagles as well,” she said. “Mostly for him though.”
Nelson has become home for Smith as well. It was the movie Roxanne that brought him here in 2014.
“I saw it in 1987 when I was 17 years old,” he said. “Fell in love with this place. With a couple exceptions, it looks exactly the same. This place is cool. This is home.”
Smith suffered four aneurysms in his lower spinal cord during the war, which has left him dependent on a cane to walk. The injury has also become terminal, but he wasn’t dwelling on that Friday. Instead, Smith was content to remember his friends, and to do it in his adopted home.
“This is a good place to die,” he said. “I’ve lived a good life.”