Behind her mask, Christine Sutherland welled up at the memory of her father.
While the public had been asked to watch a stream of the Remembrance Day ceremony from home, Sutherland couldn’t stay away. She made her own wreath with a picture of her father, William (Bill) David Sutherland, and tucked it up against the Cenotaph in front of Nelson City Hall.
Christine grew up in Nelson, and attended the ceremony every year with her father who served with Scotland in the Second World War. After Bill died, Christine continued to visit the Cenotaph with a homemade wreath.
“I just always do that,” she said. “I don’t know why. It really gets me. He was just so brave and he passed that onto us.”
Remembrance Day is typically a well-attended event in Nelson. But last month the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 51 requested attendees stay home and watch a live stream instead as a safety measure during the COVID-19 pandemic.
That made for a quieter ceremony Wednesday, with no parade, shorter speeches and no line of wreath layers.
Most of the people who did attend wore masks and stood apart from each other. Mayor John Dooley, cognizant of the nine confirmed cases of COVID-19 made public in Salmo just two days earlier, asked the crowd to keep the health of veterans in mind during the pandemic.
But the virus still remained background to the honouring veterans past and present.
Christine Sutherland said her father was among those rescued at the Battle of Dunkirk, an experience that shattered him and one he struggled with after returning home.
“Because he was the first one back, they had great little celebrations for him and he shook so bad, he couldn’t even hold the tea cups,” said Christine.
The Sutherlands made Remembrance Day a tradition, and it was only last year that Christine missed her first in Nelson because of a family accident in the United States.
“We told everybody in the airports it was Canadian Remembrance Day. All the Americans knew what we were missing,” she said. “We’re really proud of the way Canada is in the world. My dad is just an example of that kind of spirit of bravery.”
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