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

Soldier Spotlight: Sergeant Clifford Burbee

Image: Lymburn Train Station, ca. 1930 (SPRA 2000.73.171)

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.

Clifford Burbee was born in 1907, being one of 8 siblings, in Kenville MB. His education was taken at Pretty Valley School in Kenville. At age 14 he had to start working, and he had a job on a big steam threshing outfit. In 1924, at Bowsman MB, he worked at a sawmill where he got caught in a belt, but luckily only his overalls were ripped off. He worked one summer in Tisdale SK. Coming to the Peace Country in 1927, he worked in Grande Prairie as a butcher, and in construction. In Wembley, he worked at the roundhouse, and when the railroad came to Hythe, he worked there. Clifford filed on a homestead in Lymburn in 1929 where he lived for the winter. In 1930 he married Mabel Large, and they had a daughter, Eileen. Sadly, Mabel contracted tuberculosis, and died in 1936. Two years later, Clifford married again, to Carrie McDonald, and they had a daughter, Connie. During World War II, Clifford served in the army and was posted in France and Italy. Having attained the rank of Sergeant, he was discharged in September 1945. He then bought a farm 3 miles from Hythe, and Carrie and Clifford had 3 sons: Benny, Donald, and Herbert. Since World War II, Clifford worked in carpentry, and he was a member of the Hythe Canadian Legion. In 1963, he sold the farm, and built a house in Hythe. In November that year he moved to Prince George where he built two more houses. At the age of 84, Clifford passed away on January 13, 1992 in Prince George.

Source: Pioneer Round-Up pp. 185-187
South Peace Regional Archives: Family and Personal Life Reference Files – Obituary

Soldier Spotlight: Vernon “Bill” Cunningham

Image: The HMCS Bayfield was a minesweeper which patrolled the east coast from Boston to Halifax, dragging the ocean waters for mines planted by German U-boats. (SPRA 264.02)

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this new 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.

Vernon, known as “Bill” Cunningham, the eldest son of Berl and Ella (Perron) Cunningham, was born on November 9, 1922 in St. Albert AB. At age one he and his parents moved to St. Front SK. Then they returned to St. Albert in 1929, and he lived with his grandparents while starting school. In 1934 he rejoined is family in Mearns and attended Egg Lake School. The family moved to Girouxville AB in 1937, but Bill stayed behind because he was hired for farm chores by a neighbor. Unfortunately he did not continue his education.

When Vernon enlisted with the navy in 1943, he was nicknamed “Bill”, and he was known by that name from then on. (His brothers, Norman and Raymond also served in WW II.) After brief basic training, he was on active duty serving on corvettes (ships) Nonsuch, Naden, Stadacona, and Avalon. It was dangerous work aboard these ships as they were used for minesweeping and anti-aircraft protection. Bill received honorable discharge in 1945.

For several years he hauled gasoline by truck from Turner Valley to Edmonton. Then he worked for Mills Motors in Alcomdale AB, and he was also a school bus driver. Bill met his future wife, Hilda Janke, while coaching a ladies’ softball team. They married on March 11, 1949 and lived in Alcomdale. With help from the VLA, Bill acquired land in the Whitemud area which he cleared in 1950, and planted a crop in spring of 1951. That summer their Alcomdale house burnt down; shortly afterward their cabin on the homestead also burned to the ground. Bill went into partnership with his brothers in the logging and sawmill business. In 1955 he went to Prince George finding work falling trees, and he moved his family there. After some severe injuries at his job, Bill took up carpentry and built a beautiful house for his family. But a short time later they returned to the homestead, and now having a full line of farm machinery, they prospered at farming. In 1981 Bill was diagnosed with lung cancer, and he passed away that December 7. Hilda moved back to Prince George. Bill and Hilda had 4 children: Gary, Vicki, Cindy, and Sandra.

Source: Reflexions pp. 467- 468, Photos pp. 469, 231

Soldier Spotlight: Alphonse Deslauriers

Image: Home of Maxim Gervais, Falher, Alberta. June 16, 1931. Used in 1937 Not By Bread Alone lecture as B. 22. SPRA 362.02.13.062

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this new 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.

Alphonse Deslauriers, son of Ernest and Monique (Lapointe), was born in St. Laurent, Quebec, on January 23, 1917. In April 1928 he and his family moved to Girouxville AB. Whereas he had started school in St. Laurent, he continued his education in Falher AB, staying in the convent. In 1930 he attended Girouxville School. When Alphonse was older, he worked for farmers, clearing many quarters of land by ax with his father and brothers. Joining the Army in 1942, Alphonse took basic training in Canada, and then served in England, France, Holland, Belgium, and Germany. In 1946 he was involved in a convoy, delivering trucks to Czechoslovakia. He also traveled through Nuremberg, the site of the Nazi rally. After his discharge in 1946, he returned to the Girouxville area to homestead the land SW 5-78-22-W5. Through the Veteran’s Land Act he obtained the land SW 5-78-21-W5. Alphonse married Marie-Louise Remillard, a nurse from Falher, on October 14, 1947. While he farmed in the warmer seasons, Alphonse worked in lumber camps in the winters. In 1952 the Deslauriers moved to the village of Girouxville where he worked at the Co-op for nine years. From 1962 to 1981 he was postmaster until he retired. Alphonse and Marie-Louise had 2 sons: Raymond and George.

Source: Reflexions Vol. II, pp. 479-481 (photo p. 480)

Soldier Spotlight: Private Cyril “Hector” Botten

Image: A bird’s-eye view of the Grande Prairie Army Training Centre, including several “H” huts and part of the hockey rink, ca. 1941 (SPRA 2011.44.41)

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this new 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.

Regiment: Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps (R.C.O.C.)
Regimental Number: M56296
Rank: Private
Force: Army

Hector Botten came to Canada from Portsmouth, England around 1929. He and his friend, Johnny Coates, sought adventure and were especially interested in owning land in the Canadian frontier. Hector filed on a homestead in Sylvester area (near Elmworth). He became friends with Mr. and Mrs. Bob Frame of Elmworth, and he lived with their family for 12 years, helping with the farm chores. When World War II broke out, Hector was determined to join the army, and was delighted to be accepted in February 1942. He was at the Grande Prairie Military Training Centre only 2 months when he contracted pneumonia, and sadly he died on April 14, 1942. It was the first death at the training centre. On April 16 Hector was given a military funeral, and was buried at the Grande Prairie Cemetery. Hector’s mother and brother were still in England. According to Bob Frame, Hector was a “man of highest principles” and of “cheerful disposition”. Mrs. Frame kept in touch with Hector’s mother for many years afterwards. In 1974 Hector’s brother came from England to visit Mrs. Frame, who was living in Hythe at the time, to thank her for making a home for Hector.

Source: Grande Prairie Herald Tribune April 23, 1942 p. 1, c. 7 and p. 5, c. 3
Beaverlodge to the Rockies Supplement p. 151
AGS Obituary Index
Canadian Virtual War Memorial
Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Soldier Spotlight: Robert Watson

Image: Beaverlodge Experimental Substation staff, summer of 1930. Photographed by R. E. Leake. (SPRA 362.02.09.38)

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this new 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.

Robert Watson was born in County Down, Northern Ireland on July 19, 1894. Bert, as he was known, came to Canada with his parents in 1908 and settled in the Bonny Doon area of Edmonton. Bert went the high school in Strathcona and then attended the McTavish business college. He worked for Killen and Gilbert Real Estate for several years.

Bert enlisted in the 202nd Battalion in World War I and transferred to the artillery overseas. He was awarded a medal for saving a machine gun from burning. After the war he came to Grande Prairie and worked at the Beaverlodge Experimental Station.

In World II he was stationed at the Sergeant’s quarters and ordered supplies for the soldiers stationed there. After the war, Bert worked in the Land Office in Grande Prairie, then for the Government Appraisers for the Prairie Farm Assistance.

Bert passed away November 30, 1974.

Sources:
Along the Wapiti (p. 403)
Pioneers of the Peace (p. 119)
Lake Saskatoon Reflections (p. 32)

Soldier Spotlight: Jack Dorscheid

Image: A six horse team hauling lumber along the Wapiti River in February, 1938. This team worked for the Moon Bros. Mill, south of Bezanson.  Jack worked with Charlie Moon for a number of years (SPRA 1969.60.998)

Soldier Spotlight highlights veterans from the Archives’ online Soldiers’ Memorial. Each week, our volunteers select a remarkable individual to showcase in this new 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.

Force: Army Medical Corps

Jack Dorscheid was born in 1909 to Mr and Mrs Anton Dorscheid on their farm in Windom, Minnesota USA. In 1921 he and his family, including 3 younger brothers, moved to Canada and settled on a homestead in the Glen Leslie AB area. Jack’s older sister and husband had already moved to the area. Jack and 2 of his brothers attended the Crystal Creek School. In July 1930 Jack married Myrtle Dixon, a teacher from Beaverlodge. Sadly his wife died of scarlet fever in June 1931. He later married Bernice Ames from Bezanson, and they had 2 sons, Larry and Jerry. During the 1930’s Jack farmed and raised cattle. When WW II broke out he enlisted in 1940 or 1941 with the Army Medical Corps, being posted in England, and he was discharged in 1945. (His brothers Earl and Charles also served in the war. Charles was killed in action.) After the war, Jack farmed the original homestead in Glen Leslie with his brother Earl. To make ends meet, the 2 men had a sawmill business over several winters using Charlie Moon’s mill north of Crooked Creek. Eventually Jack worked for Grande Prairie Lumber Co. building roads and running a saw mill. The next year, he became a foreman at a saw mill owned by his brother Earl and Phil Nilsson. Another winter he was foreman at Norton’s cat outfit cutting lines for oil companies. In 1959 Jack was elected county councilor, serving in this position for 6 years. He was chairman of the of the Agricultural Service Board, on the County Planning and Hospital Board, named to municipal and school committees, and was warden of East Smoky Parks. Indeed he was very busy, and he resigned of his duties in 1965. For a few more years he returned to farming, ranching and enjoying family life. He died suddenly in 1973. His wife Bernice died in 2001.

Source: Smoky River to Grande Prairie p. 426
Herald Tribune – June 19, 1931 p. 1. c. 1 (wife’s death); July 25, 1930 p. 5 c. 4 (married); June 16, 1959 p. 1 c. 1 (county); April 5, 1960 p. 1 c. 5 (Agr. Serv. Bd.)