Legion

Amherstburg’s veterans’ home: Belle Vue 1946-54

 

(Editor’s Note: This is the tenth in a series of articles regarding the Belle Vue house and its history. Substituting for Debra Honor this month is Paul Hertel. Both are members of the Belle Vue Conservancy.)

 

By Paul Hertel

From 1946 to 1954, Belle Vue served as a veterans’ convalescent home for senior veterans who served in active service for Canada during the Great War, 1914-1918.

As the momentum of World War II shifted towards the Allies after 1943, the Canadian government started thinking about a post-war world, and about new improved services for veterans through the “Veterans Charter”. The past patchwork support for veterans of the Great War was to be remedied. New military hospitals were built with extended physical and emotional rehab support programming to serve returning vets from World War II. As wounded World War II veterans began to overload London’s Westminster hospital services, Belle Vue Veterans’ Home became a new Ontario destination of care for senior veterans of World War 1. As stated publically by an official, “this home will care for veterans who need a home more than active medical care…It will be something of a home for wornout veterans….”

What is the veterans’ home story at Belle Vue? On January 24, 1944, Amherstburg town council passed a resolution supporting the acquisition of the John G. Mullens family Belle Vue property for a convalescent home. On June 12, 1946 the purchase of the property by the Canadian government concluded for the price of $50,000.

A Legion Flag Presentation Ceremony took place at Belle Vue Sunday May 15 1949. The flag was donated by Great Lakes Command branch of Canadian Legion. Foreground (from left): H. Boase, Commander of District 1 Canadian Legion; A.E. Potter, original Belle Vue veteran, chair of patients committee; J. Earl McQueen. Background: Belle Vue veterans. The Belle Vue flag pole was originally part of the decommissioned Corvette K176 Kamloops. It was donated and installed by J. Earl McQueen Marine in mid-November 1947.
(Photo courtesy of the Marsh Historical Collection)

Major Gavin A. Greig was appointed the administrator, moved to Amherstburg, and began to ready the site for occupation by veterans, including the hiring of local personnel. Greig and his wife had a separate residence on site, a white two-storey frame house which still exists. Greig contributed to the public life of the town during his tenure, serving on a civil defence committee, a war memorial site committee, legion liaison, and as a service club member.

The home accepted the transfer of eleven veterans on July 29 1947. A formal opening ceremony followed on August 9, 1947. The residents annually selected their own home committee to offer opinions and recommendations to the administration. Local legion branches in Amherstburg and Essex County provided support through entertainment, and Christmas cheer. Summer time events included musical concerts.

The spike in Canada’s post-war veterans’ services declined dramatically by the mid-1950s. Consolidation and downsizing became the order of the day for the Department of Veterans Affairs, and included Belle Vue. With little advance public notice, the home was formally closed in October 1954. All remaining veteran residents were relocated to the Westminster hospital site in London. The property was then declared surplus and sold.

Who were “the old sweats,” the veterans who made Belle Vue their home? The Belle Vue Conservancy supports historical research into the veterans’ home years to fill a gap in the history of the heritage site. On-going research for family records, photos, and stories is now occurring. This knowledge adds Canadian military and institutional provenance to the building and the site.

One research strand includes the names and final resting places of these veterans. Amherstburg’s Rose Hill Cemetery and Windsor Grove Cemetery are the final resting place for some “old sweats”.

As we prepare for Remembrance Day this year, the “old sweats” of Belle Vue should be included in our thoughts.

Please support our fundraising campaign. One hundred per cent of your contribution will be used for restoration of the Belle Vue House. You will receive a full tax receipt and a Belle Vue gift. Visit amherstburg.ca/donate to help us open up Belle Vue once again or visit www.bellevueconservancy.com for more information!

 

 

Ride for Dad thanks Legion, plans 2016 return

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Royal Canadian Legion Br. 157 received recognition for being a part of last spring’s Ride for Dad last Tuesday afternoon.

Officials from the Windsor chapter of Ride for Dad stopped by the Amherstburg Legion to present a plaque as a way of thanking them for being a stop on the fundraising tour. Amherstburg was the first stop on the May 24 ride and will be the first stop once again on the May 22, 2016 ride.

Cealia Gagnon, who attended Tuesday’s presentation with fellow Ride for Dad representative Larry Burgess, said this year’s Ride for Dad raised over $73,000 for prostate cancer awareness and treatments. Over 850 riders participated.

“We’re hoping to surpass all of those numbers next year,” said Gagnon.

The Motorcycle Ride for Dad recognized the Legion last Tuesday for its participation in the 2015 event. On hand for the presentation were Cealia Gagnon and Larry Burgess from Ride for Dad, Legion president Dennis Purdie, Legion event organizer Kevan Carroll and Mayor Aldo DiCarlo.

The Motorcycle Ride for Dad recognized the Legion last Tuesday for its participation in the 2015 event. On hand for the presentation were Cealia Gagnon and Larry Burgess from Ride for Dad, Legion president Dennis Purdie, Legion event organizer Kevan Carroll and Mayor Aldo DiCarlo.

Burgess noted that riders enjoyed the trip into Amherstburg with Ride for Dad officials also being grateful for the welcome they received once they got here. The Amherstburg Fire Department brought their ladder truck with a large Canadian flag to help greet the participants.

“The Legion did a phenomenal job getting 850 people through here in an hour,” said Burgess.

The Ride for Dad officials thanked all of their supporters and extended invitations for next year, including having Mayor Aldo DiCarlo as a celebrity rider. DiCarlo, who has recovered from injuries sustained in a motorcycle crash in September, said he will consider the offer.

“The town definitely wants to thank Ride for Dad for including Amherstburg in the route,” said DiCarlo, who noted his father had prostate cancer.

“On a personal note, I think a lot of people have been affected one way or the other.”

The mayor added the event is creating awareness, something that is very important.

“Hopefully we keep getting people checked. Early diagnosis is the key,” said DiCarlo.

Royal Canadian Legion Br. 157 president Dennis Purdie said he just had his prostate removed and was thankful to the Ride for Dad committee and the Legion for working together that day.

“The Legion is more than willing to help,” said Purdie.

 

Cadets start can drive for the Amherstburg Food and Fellowship Mission

 

The 202nd Fort Malden Army Cadet Corps is holding its second annual can drive with the general public invited to participate. Food can be dropped off at Royal Canadian Legion Br. 157 or Wednesday nights between 6-9 p.m. at Amherstburg Public School when the cadets are meeting. (Special to the RTT)

The 202nd Fort Malden Army Cadet Corps is holding its second annual can drive with the general public invited to participate. Food can be dropped off at Royal Canadian Legion Br. 157 or Wednesday nights between 6-9 p.m. at Amherstburg Public School when the cadets are meeting.
(Special to the RTT)

 

By Aaron Wharram

 

The 202nd Fort Malden Army Cadet Corps is holding its second annual can drive, and this year its open to the public.

The corps is asking for the public’s help in donating cans for there can drive. Cans can be available to be dropped off at the either Royal Canadian Legion Br. 157 or by donating to the cadets directly at Amherstburg Public School every Wednesday night from 6-9 p.m.

The proceeds will be then donated to the Amherstburg Food and Fellowship Mission. The can drive will begin on Oct. 14 and will end on Dec. 18.

The cadet corps is also recruiting, anybody who is interested in enrolling there son or daughter who are between the ages of 12-18 can attend their weekly Wednesday

night meetings between 6-9 p.m.