Wilfred Williams spent several years as a cadet in St. Mary’s, but still he never thought he’d join the military.
But in October 1981 he signed up and served with the Canadian army for 10 years as a combat medic and then another 18 as a vehicle technician.
Originally from St. Joseph’s in St. Mary’s Bay, Williams met his wife, Nyle Sheppard, prior to his retirement in 2009.
Sheppard is from the north shore of the Bay of Islands and together they settled in Cox’s Cove.
A while back Williams was at the town’s post office and heard two older gentlemen talking about someone who had served during war time, but the two could not agree on what war it was.
“On the drive home I thought well if these old fellers don’t know who’s who how is the younger generation supposed to know?”
A seed was planted and Williams began to ponder the idea of having a war memorial in the town.
He did some research and thought the Battlefield Cross would be fitting. The statue featuring a soldier’s rifle stuck into the soldier’s boots, or the ground, with a helmet on top has its origins in the American Civil War, but had become a common site during the war on terrorism.
“It was the first time Canadian soldiers, our dead were being sent home,” said Williams and the configuration was being seen a lot memorializing the fallen on bases in Western Canada.
Since May Williams and a committee, including his wife, his father-in-law Ivan Sheppard, Barry Park, Richard Boisvert and Jean Murrin, have been working hard to make the memorial a reality.
“This is the first of its kind to cross the Humber,” said Williams of what’s being called the Cox’s Cove Veterans Memorial Plaza.
Over the summer Williams, his father-in-law and some locals completed the site work at the plaza, which is located next to St. Nicholas Anglican Church.
A granite monument has been installed with a plaque containing the names of 40 people from the community, some still living and some whose lives have been lost.
“This is for everyone, this is for everybody who ever served defending the country,” said Williams.
On the top of the monument is a bronzed Battlefield Cross, made by sculptor Morgan MacDonald and using a pair of boots that belonged to Williams.
Around the site will be three benches, which Willams ordered from Scotland.
The project cost about $65,000. Half the money came from Veterans Affairs, the Town of Cox’s Cove contributed $10,000 and the rest came from donations from businesses, individuals and fundraising.
Williams is still accepting donations as there will be a cost to upkeep the plaza and he plans to add names to the plaque as needed.
Now just a few days from the big unveil, Williams is nervous but feeling proud.
He said there are some in the town who feel it should have been done a long time ago and some have noted that it took someone from outside the community to do it.
But Williams said that doesn’t matter.
“As far as I’m concerned there’s a brotherhood in the military that extends from one community to the next, to the next. And it’s not just because I’m from St. Joseph’s, it’s because I’m a veteran and I’m amongst veterans and that’s all that counts.”
The memorial will be unveiled during a dedication ceremony at the plaza at 10:30 a.m. today.
The Cox’s Cove Veterans Memorial Plaza
Roll of honour
Pte. Gilbert Baldwin — First World War, RNR, April 2, 1918
OS William Henry Snooks — Second World War, RN-HMS Hood, May 24, 1941
AS Ignatius Woods — Second World War, MN, May 9, 1942
Remembering all that served
Walter (Bud) Baldwin
Maitland R. Brake
Eric F. Gillingham
Allan J. Janes
Samuel J. Jones
Chesley B. King
Ronald (Bert) Payne
Joan (White) Riou
William G. Rose
John Robert Saunders
Wilfred T. Williams