Albert Culley’s journey to the battlefields of Europe began in Lonely Lake, Manitoba.
At the age of 21, Culley joined the army in 1941 and after training in Vernon, became part of the Canadian Scottish Regiment.
Shortly before D-Day, Culley was detained for medical reasons in England. But once recovered, he was sent to the Scheldt Estuary in the Netherlands where the First Canadian Army was charged with clearing out the occupying Germans.
The campaign would be successful, but costly. The army suffered 12,873 casualties, 6,367 of those being Canadian and Culley would lose his lower right leg.
On Oct. 30, 1944, Culley stepped on a mine and his time of overseas wartime service ended.
But Culley’s dedication to his fellow soldiers didn’t end until his death on Aug. 3, 2015 at age 95.
After his injury Culley spent time recuperating and retraining in Vancouver. He then moved to the West Kootenay where he would become an important part of the local Legion.
Culley joined the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 170 in Castlegar. He served as the branch’s secretary for 11 years and the treasurer for 10 years. He eventually received a Certificate of Commitment for 50 years of service and could be seen marching with his comrades on Remembrance Day clear up into his 90s.
“The legion was a big part of what Ab believed in,” said Castlegar Legion president Chris McBain.
“We have had lots of World War II vets as members, and they have all added to the history of the local branch.”
In his later years, Culley was recognized for his service and sacrifice during the Second World War in several ways.
He was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2013 and the Canada Certificate of Recognition pin.
In 2014, on the 70th anniversary of D-Day, Culley was presented with the Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur, France’s highest honour.
Culley’s son Lorren says his dad didn’t let his leg injury stop him from enjoying life. He would even go so far as to use an old prosthesis in order to go water skiing.
But life with a prosthesis wasn’t easy and Lorren says his dad frequently suffered pain or complications because of it.
In 2005, at the age of 85, Culley journeyed back to the battlefields of the Netherlands to mark the 60th anniversary of their liberation.
“He was so proud to have been a part of the liberation,” said Lorren. “Those men didn’t talk about what had happened very much.
“He just soldiered on.”