On Monday, the coffin carrying Queen Elizabeth will travel in procession from the British Houses of Parliament, where she has been lying in state, to Westminster Abbey for her funeral.
That same day, the Royal Canadian Legion’s Aldergrove branch, at 26607 Fraser Hwy., will join other legions across Canada in holding a memorial service at the cenotaph as part of a national day of mourning.
Open to any who wish to attend, it will get underway at 10:45 a.m.
For many members of the Aldergrove legion, the passing of the Queen has sparked memories of the woman who reigned 70 years – longer than any other British monarch.
Like many Canadians, Aldergrove branch president Deb Gray has never known another.
“She’s been the Queen all my life,” Gray remarked.
“Longer than I’ve been alive.”
Doug Hadley, past president of the Aldergrove legion, recalled waving as the Queen’s train passed by when he was a boy growing up on an Alberta farm in the early 1950s.
Then, as an adult, the former RCMP officer remembers serving as part of the security detail for the Queen and Prince Philip during another Canadian visit, when the couple needed help getting into their hotel room.
There was a problem with the door lock, and Hadley and another officer were able to get it open.
He told the Langley Advance Times he doesn’t remember what was said by either Royal, but described it as a pleasant encounter.
“They were both very personable,” Hadley commented.
Vivian Lillico recalled being a 10-year-old Brownie and seeing the Queen wave as she passed by in a car during a 1959 visit to Victoria.
It was the young Queen’s first lengthy tour of Canada, a 45-day visit to all the provinces and territories.
What Lillico and her family treasured most, however, was a visit the young Queen paid to the Royal Jubilee Hospital veteran’s pavilion during the same tour. There, she chatted with Roland Aldersmith, Lillico’s grandfather and a veteran of the First World War, who was a stretcher bearer at Vimy Ridge.
A black and white photo captured the Queen talking to Aldersmith, who wore glasses with one lens blanked out because he’d lost an eye.
“It was such an honour,” he would say when he shared the story to his granddaughter. “Imagine that.”
“He was quite flabbergasted that the Queen came to visit him,” Lillico recalled.
Lillico, an air force veteran with 20 years service, grew up to become the third generation of her family to join the military, after her grandfather and father.
She will be attending the Monday memorial, wearing her Queen’s Silver Jubilee medal, awarded in 1977 while Lillico was serving in Lahr, Gerany.
On Tuesday, a few days before the Aldergrove service for the monarch, friends and family gathered at the legion to pay last respects to a contemporary of the sovereign, holding a celebration of life for William “Rusty” Holliday, a long-time legion member who liked to remind people that he was the same age as the queen.
Holiday was a supporter of the monarchy, his nephew, David Brocklehurst recalled.
“He was a royalist, you could say.”
Holliday, who passed away in July, served during the Second World War as a tank recovery driver with the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers in France, Belgium, and Germany.
Also on Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Monday, Sept. 19 will be a federal holiday to mourn Queen Elizabeth II.
Later in the day, B.C.’s Premier John Horgan announced that the province would be following suit, with most Crown corporations, and schools – including post-secondary – to be closed on Monday.
Bruce Julian, president of the Royal Canadian Legion’s dominion command, said of the Queen, “we will never forget her generous patronage and what her support has brought to our organization.”
“Royal” in Royal Canadian Legion was added in 1961 with Queen Elizabeth’s consent.
When it was founded in Winnipeg in 1925, the organization was named “The Canadian Legion of the British Empire Services League” and later incorporated by a special act of Parliament with its charter issued in 1926. That act was amended after the Queen consented to the use of the prefix “Royal.”
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