Unveiling of memorial wall.
Rev. Alex Wakeling, the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 560 chaplain, dedicates the newly unveiled memorial wall in Kingston. To the right, for the Oct. 30 ceremony, is Kingston Mayor Mark Gerretsen.
In 1921, both the City of Kingston and the surrounding County of Frontenac dedicated plaques to their Great War dead. But the list of names was very incomplete. In the case of the city, only names already on church and civic plaques were included.
During research for a 2008 book, Kingston Volunteers: The Thing To Do, I found about 150 who were omitted. After the Second World War, the city sponsored a beautiful hand-written book which is kept locked in Memorial Hall. They also built an arena dedicated to the fallen, but without giving any names.
In the early 2000s, the city decided to improve the area around Memorial Arena, and to include a memorial park. In the park would be a memorial wall with the names of all who were born, lived or worked in Kingston and area. I was asked to find those names and the result has been an interesting journey into the past. By viewing all known plaques and memorials (not always in the public eye), by reading the newspapers through the two wars, and by trolling various websites, I found 1,022 names. The first death was in South Africa in 1900. The last is of an Afghanistan veteran in 2009.
Among the difficulties were names incorrectly spelled, or people who used their second forename. Thus I found Louis Brown on the Regiopolis College scroll, but I had no idea who he was. Then I found that the Whig Standard of June 2, 1941 notes that he was killed in the Royal Air Force, and that his father was Dr. Brown of Renfrew.
An email to The Renfrew Mercury was replied to almost immediately, and within a day Renfrew resident Bill Welsh told me that Louis was lost on patrol over the North Sea.
This told me he would be memorialized on the Runnymede Memorial, which commemorates by name 20,327 airmen who were lost in the United Kingdom and North and Western Europe, and who have no known grave.
Another search found him under his full legal name: Walter Louis Brown. Few of those who still remember him knew about the Walter!
And so, on the windy and drizzly afternoon of Oct. 30, 2012, with the remnants of Storm Sandy blowing us around, we unveiled the Memorial Wall with its 1,022 names – and Louis Brown’s among them.
There were veterans who had come to see their fellow soldiers remembered. There were family members who had come to see the names of fathers and grandfathers.
But perhaps none was more proud and sad than Louis’s sister, 91-year-old Teresa Morris of Peterborough, and other members of the family. There were tears in her eyes as she touched his name. It was a fitting end to a long journey for me, discovering and rediscovering names long forgotten, and commemorating them all for what they sacrificed for Canada.
Louis Brown, whom most people in the Renfrew area knew as Louie, was one of six children of Dr. Walter Brown and wife Eulalia.
Louis grew up in Douglas and Renfrew and spent summers in Lake Dore. He was also a student at Regiopolis College in Kingston (which is now Regiopolis-Notre Dame Catholic High School).
Brother James also died overseas, in 1943 while flying a Dakota aircraft during a training exercise in England. Another brother was Joseph, who returned from the war and opened a pharmacy in Cobden. The other siblings were Paulina, Kay and Bliss.
Peter Gower is the compiler of Kingston Volunteers: The Thing To Do. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
— With files from Steve Newman