“We will remember them”

Marie Williamson and Carol Goar shared the honour of laying a wreath on behalf of the Paris Museum and Historical Society on the cenotaph this year.

Remembrance Day dawned sunny but bitterly cold (minus 2 degrees.) Despite the weather, close to 1,000 people gathered for the ceremony, spilling out into Grand River Street North and Mechanic Street.

The wreath-laying was part of the lead-up to the 2 minutes of silence. Marie and Carol, who arrived early, placed the PMHS wreath on the cenotaph shortly after 10 am. They were escorted by a veteran, who provided directions, saluted their wreath smartly and accompanied them back.

By 11 am when bugler Geoff Adeney sounded the last post, the cenotaph was covered with dozens of identical wreaths — from relatives and comrades of deceased veterans, service clubs, churches, retirement homes, Girl Guides, Scouts, local firefighters and police, all three levels of government and the Royal Canadian Legion.

The only sound during the 2-minute pause was the mournful bark of a cold dog; a fitting remembrance of the misery in which 19,252 Canadians died at Vimy Ridge and Passenchdale 100 years earlier.

The silence was broken by Reverend Canon Mario Hryniewicz, reading the familiar words: “They shall not grow old as we that are left grow old. Age shall not wear them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.”

The crowd repeated: “We will remember them.”

After the 90-minute ceremony, Marie who grew up in Paris, said she was struck by how well-attended the event was on a wintry morning. “Boy were there ever a lot of new faces,” she observed.

Carol, who is adjusting to small-town life, was stirred by the coming together of old and young. From babies bundled up blankets in their wagons to veterans wrapped in eiderdowns in their wheelchairs, everyone was united in the act of remembrance and gratitude.

Carol Goar