Jean Stahl has belonged to Salmo’s Community Memorial Church since it was built in 1952 in tribute to the area’s fallen soldiers of the Second World War.
Each Remembrance Day, their names are read aloud, but a few years ago the woman who usually has that duty was away and Stahl was asked to fill in.
She knew several of the men killed overseas, but as she stood and looked at the rest of the congregation, she realized “They don’t know who I’m talking about.”
Stahl decided to fix that. She phoned families, only a few of whom still live in the area, seeking photos of and information about each of the nine men on the Legion’s honour roll. She also discovered several others whose names aren’t on that list, but probably should be, such as flight Lt. Henry Birkland, who took part in the Great Escape, rifleman Earl Mulhern, and flying officer Gustaf Flegel, who is on the cenotaph in Trail, where he worked, but not in Salmo.
After more than two years, she had the names of 15 men from Salmo, Ymir, and area taken before their time and created a photo display for the church’s hallway. For those she couldn’t find photos of, Stahl substituted pictures of their gravesites. Several families came for the dedication service in September 2011.
“I thought it was very sweet of her,” says Balfour’s Shirley Stainton, whose brother, Pvt. Raymond Hall of the Seaforth Highlanders, was killed in 1944. “My son-in-law, daughter and I went. I met people I had lost track of. We were very grateful.”
Three men proved elusive, including Cpl. Raymond Seguin, from Cornwall, Ont. Stahl phoned the newspaper there, but was told there over 100 Seguins in the phone book. She also wrote the Legion branch but never heard back.
She has since provided photos to the Royal Canadian Legion, which recently created a twin memorial wall.
“We got our photos up a couple of months ago,” says branch president Margaret Paul. “It took a while because we don’t have that many members and the whole wall had to be changed to get them up.”
Stahl says in creating her memorial, she felt she got to know each of the young men — even those she never actually met.
“I knew most of their families. One I babysat for. But it got so that I knew each and every one of those boys when I was finished. I worried ‘Who knows what this memorial church is in memory of?’ I’ve made sure we know.”
Legion’s helmet still missing
A soldier’s helmet stolen from the Salmo cenotaph in September hasn’t turned up and the local Legion president doesn’t expect it will.
“We’ve had more phone calls about that than anything else that happens at the Legion,” Margaret Paul said. “But we do have a line on another one.”
A Nelson man is willing to donate a similar one, she said, which will be welded even more securely than the previous one to prevent it from getting swiped as well.
The stolen helmet, which might have dated back as far as the First World War, was attached to the war memorial’s cross.
Paul said they later discovered bolts on the cross were missing some nuts. “Maybe they were going to take that too? But they couldn’t get them all off so the cross is still there.”
Salmo’s Remembrance Day parade starts at 10:30 a.m. outside the Legion.