Lt.-Col. Sheila Chapman (right) is given a booklet on Bezanson’s fallen heroes by Wanda Zenner at the Bezanson Legion Hut on Saturday June 22, 2019. Private Cecil Samuel Evans is the great uncle of Chapman.
Bezanson became the second Albertan community to have all its fallen heroes commemorated during a ceremony on Saturday afternoon.The West Smoky Legion branch unveiled plaques for the young men from the Bezanson area who were killed in action during World Wars I and II.“We can never repay these young men but the one thing that we can do is never forget them and I think this will definitely be part of it,” said organizer Wanda Zenner.Zenner first came up with the idea after receiving a commemorative plaque in 2009 for her great uncle who had died in World War I.“From that point on, I really thought this should be done for all of our fallen heroes in (the) Bezanson area,” Zenner said. “But when a person is working and life gets in the way sometimes, it wasn’t until I retired last year that I really felt that I had the time to devote to this project to research these men thoroughly and do a proper job on it.”Zenner described how she spent last winter looking through their service files and contacting their families to get a brief background on them.“I really wanted to do these young men justice,” she said. “Once we had all the information complied, we started thinking, ‘Well, we should actually have an event where we can place these wonderful plaques on the wall.’”Each plaque is 20 by 24 inches with a brief biography in addition to photos of the fallen heroes and the approximate location of where they perished. The West Smoky Legion partnered with the Canadian Fallen Heroes Foundation for this project.
Plaques are displayed on the “Wall of Fame” at the Bezanson Legion Hut.
The commemoration ceremony was well attended, Zenner noted, adding that all the families for the fallen heroes were able to attend except one that was living in Scotland.The family of Cook George Henry Fish was also presented a missing war medal. Zenner had discovered that he had not received the Atlantic Star despite putting in the required amount of service time. She then reached out to Veterans Affairs Canada, which in response sent the medal along with an apology letter.Grande Prairie-Mackenzie MP Chris Warkentin and Grande Prairie-Wapiti MLA Travis Toews were among those who attended the commemoration.Warkentin stated that the event provided the opportunity for the community to learn more about its fallen heroes and hear the soldiers’ families give their impressions of these men who gave their lives.“The stories were meaningful and impacting for anyone who heard them,” Warkentin said. “So really, it’s just an incredible thing and really a labour of love that was undertaken by the Legion and the community members that were involved, and Wanada specifically, in putting that together.”“They certainly should be commended for putting these stories together that will be told for generations to come,” he added.The plaques are available for viewing at the Bezanson Legion Hut and commemorate the following servicemen: Alexander Brotherston, Cecil Evan, Willis Johnston Sr., Percy Kimmerly, Charles Dorscheid, George Fish, Jack Purves, Donald Rooney and Paul Smashnuk.Detailed biographies about the fallen heroes were also complied in a booklet with each family receiving a copy.“We can never forget the ultimate sacrifices that these young men made, and I’m just trying to bring it to the forefront so we all stop to reflect for a moment and actually appreciate the freedom that we have today,” Zenner said.
Bob Pratt (right) accepts the Atlantic Star for his great uncle Cook George Henry Fish from Wanda Zenner at the Bezanson Legion Hut on Saturday June 22, 2019.