UNITY — Honour, admiration, respect, and lifelong gratitude. These were just several of the words used when Unity’s last Second World War veteran, Si Campbell, was presented a gift from the Canadian “Quilts of Valour” program at the Unity Legion Hall on May 21.
The small group taking part in the presentation included Beth Andrews from Pense, a volunteer with the Canadian Quilts of Valour program, and Brent Shepperd from the Royal Canadian Legion in Pense, and also a nephew of Campbell.
Quilts of Valour began in Canada in 2006 as a way of honouring and saying thank you to service men and women who have fought overseas to help keep peace and security in our country. Each veteran who qualifies receives a quilt as a "hug" of thanks. These quilts are put together by volunteers across the country. To date, there have been close to 19,000 quilts presented to Canadian veterans. More information can be obtained at www.quiltsofvalour.ca as well as link to donate if you are interested.
Andrews, who travelled from Pense, along with her husband Wally, a Pense Legion member, was representing the Canadian Quilts of Valour initiative. She spoke of the program, the quilt that was being presented and a little about the nomination that led to the May 21 presentation. During the introduction it was noted that we may not know the depth of sacrifice to protect and defend our freedom, this gesture of gratitude is on behalf of a grateful nation. Following the spoken part of the presentation, given by Andrews, the quilt is laid ceremoniously around the shoulders of the recipient representing a warm and thankful embrace on behalf of Canadians.
Canadian Quilts of Valour
Andrews tells the Press-Herald / SASKTODAY.ca, “The quilt Mr. Campbell was presented with was not made by me but by a group of lovely ladies in an around the Ponteix area. I do conduct a sewing day for several ladies in Regina once a month, but a number of the quilts are completed by individuals on their own time or in groups not connected with my Regina group. These ladies usually commit to doing one quilt a year for Quilts of Valour. Once completed, they have them dropped at the quilt store in Regina and I pick them up from there. These quilts come from all areas of the province ranging from Saskatoon through Moose Jaw and eastward.”
The quilt given to Campbell has pictures of country scenes that include tractors, farmyards and deer interspersed among the quilting blocks of browns and golds. This quilting piece also included sewn in hearts and maple leaves in red and gold. Andrews says that while there is no set requirement for the quilts, and while some are done in traditional “Canadian” colors of red, white and black, there are also many done in blues, greens, yellows and browns. Volunteer quilters like them to be cheerful with colour and design not being restricted.
The attached thank you patches, stitched in the quilt, stated, “Handmade with love, respect and gratitude for your sacrifice to Canada. May the hugs stitched into this quilt give you comfort, strength and love. Thanks for all you have done for our country. God Bless you all. Made and quilted by Marie Carlson, Lyne Park and Alice Perrault.”
Andrews adds, “Normally a quilt presentation in the Unity area would be conducted by our rep in Swift Current but since the request came from Mr. Campbell's nephew, who is a member of our Pense Legion, I indicated that I would be happy to make the trip to Unity to do the presentation.” She said that neither she nor her husband have been to Unity and looked forward to the trip.
“I have been involved with Quilts of Valour since 2019. I don't have any direct military connection as many reps do, but my love of quilting and my desire to do something volunteer upon my retirement led me to get interested in the local (Regina) group who were quilting at the time (2017-18) and when the rep who was serving at the time decided to retire as a rep, she asked me to take over. She still remains involved in the quilting process," said Andrews
Andrews also confirms there are currently two active QOV reps in Saskatchewan who perform the bulk of the presentations across the province. She is also part of quilt distribution and presentations at 15 Wing Moose Jaw, which are handed out to those leaving the service.
“It is extremely rewarding to see the appreciation that is shown us when they have the quilt laid over their shoulders as a 'hug' of thanks for their service. Unfortunately, many of the veterans returning in the last decade or so have been suffering from wounds that are not necessarily apparent on the surface (i.e. PTSD, etc.) and we like to recognize them as well.”
Pride and admiration for Campbell
Proudly in attendance for the special event were Unity Legion members Vern Burns, Laura Gardiner, Theresa Keller, Mike Wildeman, George Ward, Ken and Barb Dresser. Don Cummings joined Andrew’s husband, Wally, who is a member of the Pense Legion branch. Also attending were Si’s wife, Irene, and family members Lynn, Scott and Leia Anderson of Swift Current, family friend Leona Kane of Swift Current, family Donna Thiessen and Don Cook of Saskatoon and Campbell’s nephew, Brent Shepperd, a member of Pense Legion, who resides in Grand Coulee.
Visibly moved, after the presentation, Campbell said, “I am at a loss for words, and that is something for me. This is fabulous and I am deeply appreciative of Beth and her husband for travelling all the way for this presentation as well as those ladies who completed this quilt.”
Campbell also thanked Shepperd for nominating him as a recipient as well as travelling from Grand Coulee to be part of the presentation. He made his way amongst those in attendance thanking everyone for being part of this moment with him.
Shepherd said, “I recently joined the Pense Legion, inspired by Si. I was happy and proud to nominate him.”
Those in attendance spoke of their pride and admiration for all that Si represents for his country and his community as well as being such a pillar for the local Legion.
A total of 18,789 quilts have been presented to date. Quilts are made by volunteer quilters from across the country who wish to show their appreciation.
The organization’s website outlines who is eligible and how to apply, as well as providing other details on this Canadian initiative.