Soldier Spotlight: Werner Quassowsky

Image: Coal miner digging at a vein of coal with a pick 350 feet into the earth at a Wapiti Coal Mine, 1937 (SPRA 032.08.07.043)

Werner Quassowsky was born in East Germany (now part of Russia). In 1935, he enlisted in the German army and spent two and half years in training, then returned to his parents’ farm. In 1940, he was called up. Werner fought for 10 days in France and later in Russia until 1945.

Werner was hurt in an explosion and sent by boat to Denmark. When he was sufficiently recovered, he was released and walked back to Germany, first to the English zone and then to the American zone where his parents had been relocated after being expelled from their land by the Russians.

Werner worked first as a farmer and then as a coal miner. In 1953, he immigrated to Canada, landing in Quebec and then taking the train to Rycroft. He found work building highway 49 and had various other jobs. He filed an a piece of land in the Bay Tree area which he homesteaded, using compensation money from the West German government to help clear the land.

In 1977, Werner has a hip replacement. In 1979, he broke the hip and had to give up farming. He passed away in Hythe on December 30, 1990.

Sources: Homesteaders’ Heritage (p. 93)
Hythe Headliner, January 22, 1991

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this blog series. The Soldiers’ Memorial commemorates more than 1,100 WWI veterans and 2,300 WWII veterans from our region. Three dedicated volunteers have contributed over 1,200 hours to this project by researching and writing biographies. Our goal is to have all South Peace soldiers acknowledged for their service. If you know of someone who lived in the South Peace and should be listed on the Memorial, or would like to get involved by researching a local veteran, please contact the Archives.

Soldier Spotlight: Agnes Anders

Agnes Anders was born in 1920 on the homestead near La Glace/Sexsmith. At age 23 she enlisted in the Navy as a WRN . She was posted in Sydney, NS where she worked most of the 3 years, but was also posted to Ottawa, and Victoria to get discharged in 1946. In 1950 Agnes married Eric Carlson. They had 2 children: Valerie and Renny, and they moved to Fort St. John BC. Agnes taught school in BC. She moved to Sundre, AB for retirement in 2006.

Force: Navy – Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS)
Source: La Glace – Yesterday and Today p. 101
Sundre Round – up Interview by Patricia Riley Nov. 5, 2013

Agnes Anders, SPRA

The Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this blog series. The Soldiers’ Memorial commemorates more than 1,100 WWI veterans and 2,300 WWII veterans from our region. Three dedicated volunteers have contributed over 1,200 hours to this project by researching and writing biographies. Our goal is to have all South Peace soldiers acknowledged for their service. If you know of someone who lived in the South Peace and should be listed on the Memorial, or would like to get involved by researching a local veteran, please contact the Archives.

 

Soldier Spotlight: Martha Jensen

Martha Jensen enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force, Women’s Division in WWII. Without her parents permission, she “borrowed” her father’s naturalization papers to prove they were Canadian citizens. When her father needed his papers she had to confess what she had done. Martha was sent overseas as a wireless operator to Linton Air Base near York, England where two Canadian squadrons (Goose and Thunderbird) were stationed. When she arrived, there was so much work to be done that they worked 8 hours on, 8 hours off, seven days a week. Breaks in the airman’s pub were much appreciated. During her time there, a very special event was the visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth with their daughter, the young Princess Elizabeth. After the war, Martha stayed an additional four months, based at Allerton Place, to help with demobilization and bring all the POWs home. After the war she married Alfred Head, who had served in the Air Force at Linton, and lived in the south Peace River Country of Alberta.

There was so much work to be done when the Women’s Division first arrived at Linton Air Base that they worked 8 hours on, 8 hours off seven days a week. Breaks in the airman’s pub were much appreciated.

 

Martha Jensen

 

The Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this blog series. The Soldiers’ Memorial commemorates more than 1,100 WWI veterans and 2,300 WWII veterans from our region. Three dedicated volunteers have contributed over 1,200 hours to this project by researching and writing biographies. Our goal is to have all South Peace soldiers acknowledged for their service. If you know of someone who lived in the South Peace and should be listed on the Memorial, or would like to get involved by researching a local veteran, please contact the Archives.

 

Soldier Spotlight: Arthur Dixon

Image: Dominion Experimental Station For Grande Prairie At Beaverlodge, 1928 (SPRA 107.60)

Force: Royal Canadian Air Force

Born around 1915 in Beaverlodge AB, Arthur Dixon was one of 4 children of Frederick and Louisa Maude (“Daisy”) Dixon. Both parents were teachers at Grande Prairie where Arthur started school in 1921. At age 20, Arthur was the foreman at the Beaverlodge Experimental Station. He married Annie Sylvia Walker of Halcourt on December 20, 1937 in Beaverlodge. Working as a grain buyer in 1940, Arthur moved to Hythe and later to Peace River. He enlisted with the R.C.A.F. in 1943 and travelled throughout Canada as an equipment assistant. After WW II Arthur worked for the Midland Pacific Elevator in Beaverlodge, and then became postmaster in Beaverlodge in the 1950’s. Besides farming, Arthur was involved in many organizations. For two years he was president of the Home and School Association in the 1950s. As president and welfare officer of the Beaverlodge Legion, he received a meritorious award in 1960. Holding a position with the Board of Trade, he was also a member of the Elks and Masons. Before his death in 1964, Arthur worked for the Farm Credit Corporation. Arthur and Annie had 2 children: Elaine and Donald. Annie, who died in 1988, completed a master’s degree, and taught in Africa and Germany.

Source:
Beaverlodge to the Rockies pp. 47-48 (family photo of Arthur as child)
SPRA Family and Personal Life reference files
Northern Tribune Dec. 23, 1937 p.5 c. 1 (marries)
Herald Tribune Oct. 2, 1956 p.6 c.1; Oct. 12, 1956 p.2 c.1 (biography)

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this blog series. The Soldiers’ Memorial commemorates more than 1,100 WWI veterans and 2,300 WWII veterans from our region. Three dedicated volunteers have contributed over 1,200 hours to this project by researching and writing biographies. Our goal is to have all South Peace soldiers acknowledged for their service. If you know of someone who lived in the South Peace and should be listed on the Memorial, or would like to get involved by researching a local veteran, please contact the Archives.

Soldier Spotlight: Flight Lieutenant Donald Caldwell

Image: The Herald-Tribune, November 15, 1945

Regiment: 168 (Heavy Transport) Squadron
Regimental Number: J/11098
Rank: Flight Lieutenant (Pilot)
Force: Royal Canadian Air Force

Born in 1913, Donald Caldwell was one of 9 children of parents Bert and Bessie May Caldwell from Valleyview. A teacher by profession, he taught in Rio Grande area, Itipaw, and Millerston AB. Donald was married to Margaret Isobel from Ottawa. During the Second World War he enlisted with the RCAF in 1941 in Edmonton, became a pilot, and served for 4 years. After the war Donald and 4 other pilots volunteered to fly penicillin from Canada to war-torn Warsaw, Poland. Tragically all five crew members of the RCAF Flying Fortress were killed when their plane crashed near Muenster, Germany, on November 4, 1945. Poland awarded these five service men the Golden Cross of Merit for “their outstanding heroism while on a mercy flight.” Donald was 32 years old, and he was buried in the Muenster Heath War Cemetery in Germany. The Grave Reference is 4.F.18

Source: Where the Red Willow Grew p. 303 (Name in Roll of Honour), pp. 63-64 (photo p. 64) – Note: this source states that there were 5 crew members killed.
Herald Tribune Nov. 15, 1945 p. 1 c. 7 – Note: this source states that there were 4 crew members killed.
Commonwealth War Graves Commision

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this blog series. The Soldiers’ Memorial commemorates more than 1,100 WWI veterans and 2,300 WWII veterans from our region. Three dedicated volunteers have contributed over 1,200 hours to this project by researching and writing biographies. Our goal is to have all South Peace soldiers acknowledged for their service. If you know of someone who lived in the South Peace and should be listed on the Memorial, or would like to get involved by researching a local veteran, please contact the Archives.

Soldier Spotlight: Sergeant Paul Smashnuk

Image: The Herald-Tribune, December 2, 1943

Rank: Sergeant
Died: November 24, 1943
Commemorated at: Moro River Canadian War Cemetery, Italy

Paul Smashnuk, born on July 14, 1919 at Andrew, Alberta, moved with his family to a homestead in an area of Bezanson known as Lindsay. Paul completed his education at the one-room Lindsay School following which, he worked on the family farm and trapped during the winter months. Paul decided to branch out on his own and found employment as an equipment operator and mechanic in Nanton, Alberta. On September 13, 1939, Paul answered the call of duty to Country and enlisted in Edmonton with the 92nd Field Battery, Royal Canadian Artillery. He was subsequently transferred to the 3rd Field Regiment where he served as a Sergeant during the Second World War. Paul arrived in England on December 11, 1939 where he remained until June 15, 1943 at which time he was sent to Italy. After the success of the Sicilian Campaign, the invasion of the Italian mainland was the next operation. The 1st Canadian Division, along with the 8th British Army, led the way across the Strait of Messina to the toe of Italy and then advanced towards the Gustav Line which was a series of concrete bunkers and artillery positions on the rocky slopes of mountains fronted by a no-man’s-land of barbed wire and land mines. The Canadians found themselves in the central mountain range where they met fierce German resistance along the Sangro River. Two batteries of the 3rd Canadian Field Regiment pushed forward with mules that pulled the battalion’s three-inch mortars and machine-guns down the muddy slopes. On November 24th, the thunder of guns of nine artillery regiments rolled through the valleys; however, by mid-afternoon, the progress was delayed by heavy enemy shelling. Sergeant Paul Smashnuk died on November 24, 1943 and is commemorated at the Moro River Canadian War Cemetery, Italy.

Son of Peter Smashnuk and Elena (nee Frunchak) Smashnuk of Bezanson, Alberta; brother of Nick Smashnuk, William Smashnuk, Eli Smashnuk, Dorothy (nee Smashnuk) Hotte, George Smashnuk, Mary (nee Smashnuk) Norton, Donald Smashnuk, Leon Smashnuk and Doreen (nee Smashnuk) Somotonk, predeceased by brother Harry Smashnuk; common-law husband of Rose (nee Kokotailo) Danyluk, father of Paul Smashnuk-Danyluk, both of Andrew, Alberta; he was 24 years old.

Citations: 1939-45 Star, Italy Star, Defence Medal, War Medal, Canadian Volunteer Service Medal with Clasp.

Written by Wanda Zenner
January 2019

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this blog series. The Soldiers’ Memorial commemorates more than 1,100 WWI veterans and 2,300 WWII veterans from our region. Three dedicated volunteers have contributed over 1,200 hours to this project by researching and writing biographies. Our goal is to have all South Peace soldiers acknowledged for their service. If you know of someone who lived in the South Peace and should be listed on the Memorial, or would like to get involved by researching a local veteran, please contact the Archives.

Soldier Spotlight: Matthew Chrenek

Image: Male members of the Sexsmith Legion. One photograph identified as Edgar Henning, Stanley Kulicki, Jock Thomson, Adam Grotkowski, ?, George “Knobby” Clark, Joe Shannon (seated), Fred Bohn, Charlie Stojan, Andy Innes, Danny Rycroft, Gordon Mates, Matt Chrenek. C. 1960. (SPRA 644.01.13)

Matthew F. Chrenek (Jr.) born in 1922 in Bankhead AB, was the son of Matthew and Mary Chrenek (who originally came from Czechoslovakia). For the first 4 years the family lived in nearby Luscar, and in 1926 moved to Lulu Island, BC. In 1927, they moved to the Sexsmith area where Matthew Sr. had purchased a farm. Matthew and his sister Cecile attended the Mount Star School. At the age of 20, Matthew enlisted in the army, taking his basic training in Edmonton. From there he went to Camp Borden ON for advanced training. In 1943 he was posted overseas, and after taking further training in England, he served in France, Belgium, Holland, and Germany. He was discharged in Calgary in 1946. Matthew married Josephine Rombs in 1951 in Fairview. They had one son, Charles. Starting in 1956, they raised purebred Herefords, and have won many first and second place prizes. One of their bulls won Grand Champion in the Fairview Show in 1975. In 1977, Josephine and Matthew traveled to Europe for the unveiling of the Cairn at Buron, France where Matthew’s regiment was on “D” Day (June 6, 1944). They also attended a ceremony at an all-Canadian cemetery. Over the years, Matthew was an active member of the Legion, being president for several years, while Josephine was active in the Ladies Auxiliary to the Royal Canadian Legion. Matthew died at age 89 in Grande Prairie AB in 2011.

Source: Wagon Trails Grown Over p. 1149 (Name in Roll of Honour), p. 1155 (photo), pp. 163-167

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this blog series. The Soldiers’ Memorial commemorates more than 1,100 WWI veterans and 2,300 WWII veterans from our region. Three dedicated volunteers have contributed over 1,200 hours to this project by researching and writing biographies. Our goal is to have all South Peace soldiers acknowledged for their service. If you know of someone who lived in the South Peace and should be listed on the Memorial, or would like to get involved by researching a local veteran, please contact the Archives.

Soldier Spotlight: Gerard Brochu

Image: A photograph from the Army Training Center, Grande Prairie showing troops standing in formation in front of the row of “H” huts, ca. 1941 (SPRA 2011.44.43, Fond 478, Turner family fonds)

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this blog series. The Soldiers’ Memorial commemorates more than 1,100 WWI veterans and 2,300 WWII veterans from our region. Three dedicated volunteers have contributed over 1,200 hours to this project by researching and writing biographies. Our goal is to have all South Peace soldiers acknowledged for their service. If you know of someone who lived in the South Peace and should be listed on the Memorial, or would like to get involved by researching a local veteran, please contact the Archives.

Regimental No.: M 605068
Rank: Private
Force: Army

Gerard Brochu, the son of David Brochu and Alice Ruel, was born on February 13, 1920 in St. Fabien de Panet, Quebec. With his mother and siblings he moved to Girouxville AB in September 1927, because his father had come a year earlier, and had obtained a homestead. At age 19 Gerard enlisted with the Canadian Army. After two months of training in Grande Prairie, and a short period in Calgary, he went to Valcartier QC before being stationed overseas. In England Gerard was first at the military base Cochran Crossroads, then he was transferred to the La Chuadiere regiment. After that he was sent to Normandy, France as part of the Canadian Infantry. Being wounded on D-Day, June 6, 1944, he was sent back to England for recuperation. Thereafter he served in Belgium, Holland, and Germany, and fought until the end of WW II. In 1946 he married Donalda Chabot from Codesa AB, and eventually they had 4 children: Armand, Annette, Helene, and Ronald. Through the VLA, the Brochus had a homestead on western half of 11-78-235. Renting out the land in 1955, the family moved to Girouxville where Gerard was the village foreman until 1974 when he retired. In 1984, he sold his house and moved to Golden Age Manor in Girouxville. Gerard passed away at age 75 on October 24, 1995 in McLennan AB.

Source: Reflexions Vol. II pp. 392-393
AGS Obituary Index

Soldier Spotlight: Robert Card

Image: Grande Prairie Legion Hockey Team which played for the 1950-51 season included, back row, W. Hiekkila, G. Bond, D. Swanston, H. Ayre, D. Crough, R. Card, C. Turner, E. Nelson, R. Wright, J. Listhaege, R. Neufeld, R. Rigler, J. MacMillan, F. Anderson, L. Giroux, J. Moore, K. Schielke. Also on the photograph is J. Lynn (Manager). (SPRA 2010.14.10)

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this blog series. The Soldiers’ Memorial commemorates more than 1,100 WWI veterans and 2,300 WWII veterans from our region. Three dedicated volunteers have contributed over 1,200 hours to this project by researching and writing biographies. Our goal is to have all South Peace soldiers acknowledged for their service. If you know of someone who lived in the South Peace and should be listed on the Memorial, or would like to get involved by researching a local veteran, please contact the Archives.

Rank: Flying Officer; Sergeant
Force: Royal Canadian Air Force

Robert “Bob” Card was the son of Mr and Mrs Ira Card, and he was raised and educated in Grande Prairie AB. He was a well known hockey player. In 1942 he enlisted with the Royal Canadian Air Force. Graduating from the Macleod Service Flying Training School (SFTS), he first became a bomber pilot over Germany, and later he became an instructor. He married Audrey Janet Goodsir on June 11, 1943 in Lethbridge AB. In December 1944 he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross medal. Bob was president of the Canadian Legion. His brothers Gerald and Bill also served in the RCAF in WW II.

Source: Trails and Rails North Vol. 2 p. 99
Grande Prairie Capitol of the Peace p. 112
Herald Tribune – July 15, 1943 p. 4 c. 4 (marries)
– Oct. 5, 1944 p.1 c.2 (pilot)
– Dec. 14, 1944 p.3 c.5 (DFC medal)

Soldier Spotlight: Nick Nasedkin

Image: Dedication of the Cenotaph in the new village park at Eaglesham, Alberta on September 11, 1978. Left to right: Jack Campbell, Past Zone Commander; Nick Nasedkin, District Commander of District #1; Andy Innis, Vice President of the Alberta/North West Territories Command; Frank Produzny, Zone Commander of Zone #2. Photograph taken by Gary Lachance, Eaglesham, Alberta. (SPRA 328.02.01)

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this blog series. The Soldiers’ Memorial commemorates more than 1,100 WWI veterans and 2,300 WWII veterans from our region. Three dedicated volunteers have contributed over 1,200 hours to this project by researching and writing biographies. Our goal is to have all South Peace soldiers acknowledged for their service. If you know of someone who lived in the South Peace and should be listed on the Memorial, or would like to get involved by researching a local veteran, please contact the Archives.

Nick was born in China (probably Manchuria) to Russian parents in 1911. He had some early lessons in English at the YMCA in Harbin. The family immigrated to Canada to take up land from the CPR in 1924 and settled originally in the Ponoka area. Nick apprenticed to a butcher and learned English from the butcher’s wife.

The family moved to Spirit River and Nick followed in 1928, finding work with a butcher. He moved to Peace River in 1930 to manage a meat market. There he met Elda Searle, a teacher, and they were married in August, 1932. This was followed by a move to Beaverlodge where Nick opened a butcher shop. Their son, Jack was born in 1936. In 1939, Elda became sick and passed away. This eventually led to Nick selling the business, taking his son to his sister-in-law in Trail, and then enlisting in the Air Force in Calgary (1940 or 1941).

Nick was posted overseas in England, Belgium, France, Holland, Germany and Denmark. He was commissioned overseas and worked as an interpreter for the Russian Air Force, the RAF and the RCAF. Nick claims to have spoken seven languages including Cree. He was discharged when he returned to Canada in 1946.

Nick returned to Beaverlodge where he again opened a butcher shop. He married Eleanor Jarvis in 1947 and had four more children.

Source: Beaverlodge to the Rockies, p.221