Prince Albert war veteran presents first poppies of Legion campaign

Veteran Marie Mathers (left) presents the first poppy to Mayor Greg Dionne to kick off Prince Albert's Royal Canadian Legion campaign on Oct. 25, 2019. (Jayda Noyes/Daily Herald)

Marie Mathers has been without her husband for 26 years.

They both served in World War Two. Mathers was a teenager when she worked in a German Prisoner of War camp in Manitoba. Her husband fought on Juno Beach, where Canadian soldiers invaded the 10-kilometre French coastline on June 6, 1944.

Mathers helped kick off the Prince Albert branch of the Royal Canadian Legion’s poppy campaign on Friday.

She presented the first poppy to Mayor Greg Dionne, saying ‘Lest We Forget’ as she pinned it on his jacket. Dionne shook her hand, and then she presented poppies to other members of the Legion.

Marie Mathers presents a poppy to local veteran Loyd Smith at the Royal Canadian Legion in Prince Albert on Oct. 25, 2019. (Jayda Noyes/Daily Herald)

Speaking to media about what presenting the first poppies was like for her, Mathers said “It’s heartbreaking” as tears glossed over her eyes.

“My husband was a veteran of the second World War. His picture’s on the wall (at the Legion), and he’s gone. Twenty-six years already. But to do anything for the veterans, I’m always there as much as I can,” she said.

“Even when I was a young person, November was always very special.”

Although her husband is no longer with her, Mathers continues to embrace her youngest son’s presence when she can. He’s often working away from home, but always returns for Remembrance Day.

She said he always reads the Legion Magazine from cover to cover.

Mathers is grateful that the significance of Remembrance Day is being taught more in schools because that wasn’t always the case.

“The schools are helping now because we’re having more veterans going to the schools, but at one time Remembrance Day was not mentioned and your history of the wars were not mentioned (in schools),” she explained.

However, her late husband normally never spoke about the war.

“That was a secret that he always kept,” she said.

The legion invites the public to honour past and present veterans at their Remembrance Day ceremony on Nov. 11. Members ask that you’re seated at the Armouries by 10:30 a.m. for the marching in parade at 10:45.

Following the service is the laying of the wreaths at the Court of Queen’s Bench Cenotaph and then at the Memorial Square Cenotaph.

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Prince Albert Legion Poppy and Wreath Committee Chair Colin Riese presents a poppy to veteran Marie Mathers on Oct. 25, 2019. (Jayda Noyes/Daily Herald)