Tag Archives: Royal Canadian Legion

Vern Burns – Saskatchewan Legionnaire of the Year

(By George Ward)

At a Legion rally in Lloydminster May 6, Vernon Burns of Unity SK was presented with Saskatchewan’s Legion Member of the Year Award, in recognition of his years of creative, energetic participation with the Royal Canadian Legion, Unity Branch No. 90.

Vernon Burns of Unity Saskatchewan

After serving briefly in the militia — Canadian Army Reserve Forces — Vern joined Unity Branch No. 90 in the early 1960s. From the start, he worked hard. As an electrician, he knew the building trades, had contacts and know how to get jobs done.

When the Boy Scout Camp was constructed at Atton’s Lake, a Legion-assisted project, Vern and his helpers build the dining hall and other smaller buildings.

Committed to athletics, like his older brother Robert Burns, Vern coached and played, both in local and Legion-organized sports.

Eventually, Vern’s work called him and his wife Sadie to other communities. After retirement, he and Sadie returned to Unity and Vern rejoined the local Legion in the early 1990s.

Vern has served as branch president and, for many years, as property manager, performing hundreds of minor repairs to the Unity Legion Hall and, when necessary, consulting other tradesmen. His skill and experience have saved the Unity Legion thousands of dollars through the past 25 years.

Beyond the call of official duties, Vern for years sanded and re-varnished the hall main floor annually. Until very recently, he was usually “first on the scene” to shovel winter snow.

With Sadie, a member of the Legion Auxiliary, at his side, Vern has judged dozens of Remembrance Day essay and poster contests, has helped serve hundred of meals — and cleaned up afterwards — and has been “Johnny on the spot” for countless special projects.

What a wonderful team this team have been, working hard for Branch No. 90 and our community!

Are Royal Canadian Legion branches going to disappear?

Legion members are worried. As an active committee member of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch #90 in Unity, Saskatchewan, puts it, they are “in dire need.”

While branches and members appreciate communities supporting their fundraising efforts, what they need more than ever before is new members, and especially, new members who are willing to take on an active role.

Mike Wildeman of the Unity branch says recent meetings have no more than nine members in attendance and the average age of the attendees is close to 80. “The Legion, in a year’s time, may not be the Legion, without a membership drive,” he said.

At one time, the Unity Legion boasted a membership list of 175 names; today that list is down to less than 60. Many on today’s list are members in name only and are not active in organizing or planning any activities.

Wilkie and Luseland Legion branches have the same issues with declining membership lists and less than 10 people coming to meetings. Luseland Legion president Brian Honeker said they only have 22 members currently, six of who no longer even live in the Luseland area.

Any membership drive will have to focus on people willing not only to become a Legion member, but also to attend meetings and take a turn on the executive. The only qualification to be a Legion member is being a Canadian citizen.

The Unity, Wilkie and Luseland branches all meet only once a month, and take the summer off. Both Wildeman and Honeker, and other active Legion members in the area, would be more than happy to hear from you if you have any questions about Legion membership and/or where you might be able to assist, whether it is locally, provincially or nationally.

Royal Canadian Legion, Branch #90

Decoration and Dedication Day at Veterans’ Plot

Veterans' Plot at Pleasantview Cemetery, Unity SK decoration day unveiling2

The Royal Canadian Legion, Unity Branch No. 90, hosted a special Dedication and Decoration service at the veterans’ plot at Pleasantview Cemetery in Unity, Sept. 7. Padre George Ward led the special service, which included the national anthem, prayer, the laying of wreaths, remembrance and The Last Post. About 50 people attended the service, held to unveil a new sign (see photos above) and dedicate other improvements to the plot, including a new stone memorial at the base of the cross.

The new sign reads “Veterans’ Plot, Royal Canadian Legion, Branch #90, Unity, Saskatchewan, July, 2014” on one side and lists the four wars of the 20th century on the other.

Veterans' Plot, Pleasantview Cemetery, Unity, Saskatchewan

Veterans' Plot, Pleasantview Cemetery, Unity, SaskatchewanLegion member and Chair of Plot and Centotaph Mike Wildeman said that, although people tend to think of the two World Wars when they think of veterans, there are three Boer War veterans buried in the plot and there are two local Korean War veterans who wish to be buried there when their time comes.

The new large polished granite memorial at the foot of the cross, in the approximate centre of the soldiers’ plot, bears 199 names – the name of every soldier who went to war from Unity and the surrounding areas.

Cross in Veterans' Plot, Unity SKWreaths were laid at the memorial and cross by Cst. Terry Forbes on behalf of the Government of Canada, former MLA John Britton representing the Government of Saskatchewan, Mayor Sylvia Maljan on behalf of the Town of Unity,

decoration day sylvia

Second World War veteran and Legion president Silas Campbell on behalf of the Royal Canadian Legion, Unity Branch No. 90, Merv Bosch representing the RM of Round Valley

decoration day bosch

and Cpt. Lorne Kohlman on behalf of Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron Macklin No. 601.

Other improvements made to the cemetery include refinishing of the vinyl on the cross, refurbishing of the unknown soldier statue, cement borders outlining the walkways at the foot of the graves and a new flagpole and benches. With respect to the benches, it was said Legion members hope people visiting the cemetery will take time to sit and think about the sacrifices made by veterans.

Over $20,000 was spent on the site, the majority raised by the Unity Legion branch. The balance of the funds came from a federal grant and contributions from the Town of Unity and the RMs of Round Valley, Grass Lake and Tramping Lake.

Along with the Canadian flag flying at the top of the flagpole, and the one covering the new sign, which was respectfully removed at the appropriate time during the ceremony, 56 other flags fluttered in the wind, lined up along rows of gravesites. Wildeman said there were a flag for each local First World War veteran – 36 – and Second World War veteran – 20 – who died overseas. He noted that if you count the names on the cenotaph at the Legion/Lions Memorial Park in Unity, you will find 56 names.

decoration flags

Next week’s paper

You will plenty to read and see in the September 15th issue of the Unity Wilkie Press-Herald – 20 pages worth! Among the articles and photos are:

  • an update on the swimming pool construction;
  • coverage of the Legion’s Decoration and Dedication Day at the cemetery September 7;
  • car show/show and shine news; and
  • locals at the World Triathlon Championships in August

along with regular features such as the RCMP Report, Faith Matters, our editorial page and the back page Top 10.

Below, Legion Padre slowly makes his way through the Veterans’ Plot at Pleasantview Cemetery after the service dedicating the new amenities and improvements to the plot.

Veterans' Plot, Pleasantview Cemetery, Unity, Saskatchewan



Luseland’s Brian Honeker recognized at Rivers West banquet

Brian Honeker of Luseland was recognized as the Heritage Volunteer of the Year at the fifth annual Rivers West District for Sport Culture and Recreation volunteer recognition banquet held in Radisson, April 9.

Brian Honeker of Luseland SK

Ollie Marciniuk, Rivers West District chairperson, congratulates Brian Honeker of Luseland on being named Heritage Volunteer of the Year, at the Rivers West awards banquet in Radisson, April 9. Photo courtesy of Rivers West District for Sport Culture and Recreation

Honeker was nominated for the award by Irene Body for his work and commitment to a number of organizations and events in Luseland.

Body’s nomination letter explained, “Luseland (is) a town of approximately 600 People with numerous service clubs and organizations … the result of many, many volunteer hours which we know often falls on the shoulders of a limited number of citizens. Brian Honeker takes on a leadership role and works relentlessly as one of these persons.”

Of all the organizations with which Honeker is affiliated, the most important one to him is the Royal Canadian Legion. His mother served in the Second World War and he has been an active member of the Luseland branch of the Legion for over 15 years.

He works with the school to encourage participation in the Legion’s Remembrance Day essay, poem and poster context. He also plans the annual Remembrance Day service for the Legion and the community. During his years with the Legion, Honeker spent seven years as president and has been the secretary-treasurer since 1998.

For over 20 years, Honeker has been a key person in the planning and execution of Canada Day celebrations in Luseland. Recently, he cut back on his involvement with Canada Day hoping to encourage others to volunteer, but he continues to serve as treasurer for the committee, a role he has held since 1991 or ’92.

A member of the Luseland Wildlife Association, Honeker is involved in all aspects of the annual wildlife dinner and awards night. He is the cooking co-ordinator, helps prepare food, sells tickets, finds and organizes workers and canvasses for silent auction items. He has been a gun safety instructor for over 20 years.

Honeker first became involved with the board of the Luseland Homecoming Hall as the Legion representative. For some 15 years he has also served, and continues to serve, as the hall “handy man doing general building maintenance, cleaning, painting, monitoring water and sewer lines, takes care of the furnace, keeps sidewalks clean, makes coffee & tea for groups renting the hall,” as set out in Body’s nomination letter.

Body’s letter concluded, “Brian’s level of dedication is unwavering and he is definitely a Volunteer to be recognized.”

Body said that although only one name could go on the nomination letter, there was a group of people in Luseland who got together to help prepare the letter and to make sure none of Honeker’s contributions to the community were missed. She added that he is the type of person that, “if he says he’s going to do something, it’s done.”

Honeker also volunteers as the trainer for the Luseland/Dodsland Mallards senior men’s hockey team. He stepped into that position eight years ago; prior to that he used to run the clock at home games.

Honeker, a bachelor, farms southwest of Luseland. He grew up in the area and graduated from Major School in 1977.

Legion Remembrance Day poster contest

In a scene repeated in hundreds, if not thousands, of Legion halls across the country, members of the Unity Royal Canadian Legion gathered Nov. 1 to judge the poster entries in the annual Remembrance Day Poster and Literary Contest.

poster contestSi Campbell, Irene Thiessen-Campbell and Vern and Sadie Burns spent half a day examining somewhere between 500 and 600 posters. They all agreed creating a short list of possible winners in each category was the easy part but picking the final top two out of the short list of top contenders was far more difficult.

The Legion members spread out all the posters in one category or division at a time. There are four categories all together: primary – kindergarten and Grades 1 to 3; junior – Grades 4 to 6; intermediate – Grades 7 to 9; and senior – Grades 10 to 12. Students from all three schools in Unity send in posters for the competition.

Remembrance Day postersEach category is further divided into colour posters and black and white posters. From the submitted posters, the group of judges had to select first and second place winners in each of the eight divisions.

The rules, set by the national Legion office, say “Entries will be judged on originality, expression of designated subject, drawing and illustration. The poster shall reflect Remembrance with a Canadian theme.”

The winning posters are kept by the Legion and sent off to zone competition. After making their way through local, zone and district levels, the best posters, essays and poems in the province are chosen and forwarded to Ottawa for the national competition. National winners are displayed at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa for one year, while second and third place winners are displayed at Parliament Hill during Remembrance week. Eventually even these posters make their way back to the students.

As well as cash prizes at each level of competition, the senior national winners of each of the poster contests, and of the essay and poetry contests, are flown to Ottawa to attend the national Remembrance Day service where they place a wreath on behalf of the youth of Canada. They also have an opportunity to meet and visit with the Governor General.

The winning entries forwarded from the Unity branch of the Royal Canadian Legion have often seen some national success but our local Legion members are still waiting and hoping to have a senior national winner so they can send someone off on the Remembrance Day trip to Ottawa.