Our Community – At Lady Evelyn School History of Local WW2 Heroes Brought Home to Students

At its Remembrance Day assembly, Lady Evelyn Alternative School students were presented with a painting honouring Corporal Nathan Cirillo. From left: Stella Kager, Saralyn Sheppard, Mollie Giesbrecht, Bethlehem Wondimagnehu, Comrade Wanda Riddell, Principal Kimberly Esdaile, Raya Duncan, Comrade Robin Brown, Rawan El-Barghoti, Calliope Carroll. Photo by John Dance

At its Remembrance Day assembly, Lady Evelyn Alternative School students were presented with a painting honouring Corporal Nathan Cirillo. From left: Stella Kager, Saralyn Sheppard, Mollie Giesbrecht, Bethlehem Wondimagnehu, Comrade Wanda Riddell, Principal Kimberly Esdaile, Raya Duncan, Comrade Robin Brown, Rawan El-Barghoti, Calliope Carroll.
Photo by John Dance

John Dance

The astounding contributions of Lady Evelyn School’s students to Canada’s Second World War “Fighting Forces” were literally brought home to the school’s current students at their Remembrance Day assembly, an event attracting about a hundred guests. The highlight of the warm and emotional service was Royal Canadian Legion comrades – and brother and sister – Wanda Riddell and Robin Brown presenting the school with the honour roll listing the 279 former students who volunteered for active service in WW2.

The beautiful and large framed work had been with the Strathcona branch of the Royal Canadian Legion which was located in a now-demolished building on Greenfield Avenue. As a result of declining membership, the branch has been disbanded and, in the words of Riddell, “The time has come for this magnificent piece of local history to return home.”

Riddell and Brown grew up in Old Ottawa East on Redmond Place, a lane just off of Concord Street, and both were students at Lady Evelyn. Their membership in the Legion stemmed primarily from their family’s military history, well evidenced by three of their uncles named on the honour roll. A picture of the three uncles taken on the day they left for overseas was also presented to the school. Unlike many, they all returned safely.

Almost all of the 123 students currently enrolled at the school participated in the assembly, the first since the Covid pandemic began. They sang, they recited poetry, they read tributes and they laid their own wreaths honouring those who have served our country. The walls of the gymnasium were covered with students’ artwork paying tribute to Canada’s veterans and ensuring their efforts will not be forgotten and that peace and democracy must be ensured.

The provenance of Lady Evelyn’s honour roll isn’t perfectly clear but, as described by a Macleans article of several years ago, “In the aftermath of WW2, [Group of Seven artist A.J.] Casson took it upon himself to design a template for an honour roll scroll that could be filled out with veterans’ names from particular schools, congregations and other organizations.”

Casson’s name appears in small letters at the bottom of the scroll which is “brightly coloured [with] an intricate coat of arms and emblazoned with the phrase, ‘For King and Country.’” Exactly who went to the painstaking effort to determine which Lady Evelyn students volunteered is unknown. Ottawa East must have been a tight-knit community, given how multiple members of many families are named. One surname, Dale, appears seven times, while a few others are listed five times.

Riddell and Brown also presented the school with a painting entitled “Soldiers Tears,” by Ottawa artist Julie Daigle. The painting is of a field of poppies, and it honours Nathan Cirillo who was murdered while standing guard at the National War Memorial.

Filed in: Community Links, Front Page

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