Soldier Spotlight: Steve Didow

Image: Grain elevators at Rycroft, 1980 (SPRA 192.05.02.0617)

Steve Didow was born on March 8, 1922 in Eaglepoint SK, to Steve Sr. and Mary Didow. He had two brothers, George and John, and a sister, Mary. At age 4 he and his family moved to Rycroft AB where he attended school. In 1939 he began work at United Grain Growers Ltd. Steve enlisted in the RCAF in Calgary in January 1942. While there, he married Eveline Slobodian on December 17, 1943, before being sent overseas. Eveline worked in Young SK during Steve’s absence. Stationed in Great Britain, Steve’s invasion forces went to France on June 10, 1944, and he also served in Belgium and Holland. In March 1945 he was hospitalized for knee surgery in England. Needing further medical care, Steve returned to Canada, and he was discharged from the force that October. Back to work with United Grain Growers, Steve was manager of the elevator in Prestville (Rycroft area) from February 1946 until 1951. Then he and Eveline moved to Spirit River and operated the UFA Co-op Bulk Plant and service station. Steve joined the Legion, served on the town council, was a member of the Chamber of Commerce, and served on the stewards board for the United Church, where he and Eveline were members. They enjoyed golf and curling. In December 1966, Steve and Eveline sold their house, and moved to Florida because of poor health. For nine years they lived there in the winters and in Spirit River in the summers. They bought a farm (between Rycroft and Spirit River), and the Sylvan Meadows Golf Course (in partnership with their son and Steve’s sister), which they operated from 1972 until Steve retired in 1982. From spring to fall they lived in their mobile home at the golf course, and they spent their winters in Richmond BC, and in southern climates. When they sold the farm and golf course in 1991, they moved to Grande Prairie, and then to Edmonton. In 2004 the Didows relocated to Kelowna BC. where Steve passed away on August 30, 2008, and Eveline died in 2011. They had 4 children: Shirley (predeceased), Donald (predeceased), Ken, and Linda.

Source:
Chepi Sepe p. 184 photo; p. 353 family story and photo
AGS website – Obituary Index
SPRA – Family and Personal Life Reference Files

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: Private Samuel “Dean” Hodgins

Image: The Lake Saskatoon Baseball Team in 1912. Standing: Leonard Eisenmann, Charlie Richardson, George Stoll, Charlie Stoll, Sel McAusland, and Max English. Seated: Roy Stokes, Dean Hodgins, Percy Perraton, Ulia Douglass, Walter Eaton, Hermann Reidrick, and Jimmy Loudfoot, bat-boy. (SPRA 032.08.08.0749)

Regimental Number: 101240
Rank: Private
Branch: 66th Battalion; 8th Battalion

Dean Hodgins was born in Port Rowan, Ontario on February 15, 1888. At the time of his enlistment in September of 1915, he was living in Grande Prairie (his homesteads were located at 36-71-7-W6 and 31-71-6-W6). A letter from the front written by Private Keith in July of 1916 suggested that Dean had had “cold feet.” Articles were published soon afterward to give the true story (see the attached news clippings) and suggested that the previous accusation was made out of spite. Shortly afterward, in September of 1916, Dean went missing in action, though this was not reported until March of 1917. It was later discovered that Dean had been killed during an attack on enemy trenches near Courcelette on September 26, 1916, just three months after arriving in France.

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: Peter Dick

Image: Big Horn School, ca. 1950 (SPRA 0063.02.015.1)

Peter Dick arrived in Canada from Russia in fall of 1926 with his mother and step-father (Kathler), brother, Cornilious, and sister, Sarah. The following spring they settled on a quarter of land 8 miles north of Wembley AB. The children attended Big Horn School in Scenic Heights, and Lake Saskatoon School. Peter, who was one of the first men in the area to enlist when WWII broke out, served overseas for five years. He was a mine detector for the advance troop. In Germany, he was an interpreter, although he did not care for that job. Because he was wounded he spent time in the hospital, and then married a girl from England. After the war, they came back to Canada settling in Hamilton, ON where they raised a family of two children: Terry and Sandy. Being an ambitious worker, Peter was employed in a steel factory until the time of his death on November 11, 1974.

Source: Lake Saskatoon Reflections p. 243-244; For King and Country poster in Wembley

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: Private John “Chip” Kerr

Image: Newspaper clipping about Chip’s Victoria Cross in the 1 November 1916 Grande Prairie Herald

Regimental Number: 101465
Rank: Private
Branch: 49th Battalion

Chip was born in Fox River, Nova Scotia on January 11, 1887. He came to Spirit River in 1912 and filed on homesteads at 27-78-6-W6 and 7-79-6-W6; his brother Charles filed on a neighboring quarter. Both brothers enlisted in the Canadian army in the autumn of 1915. On September 16, 1916, Chip was awarded the Victoria Cross by George V for his actions at Courcelette. His citation notes that “Kerr and small group of men charged enemy trench after prolonged grenade exchange. Captured 62 enemy soldiers.” According to the London Gazette (October 26, 1916):

“For most conspicuous bravery. During a bombing attack he was acting as bayonet man, and, knowing that bombs were running short, he ran along the parados under heavy fire until he was in close contact with the enemy, when he opened fire on them at point-blank range, and inflicted heavy loss. The enemy, thinking they were surrounded, surrendered. Sixty-two prisoners were taken and 250 yards of enemy trench captured. Before carrying out this very plucky act one of Private Kerr’s fingers had been blown off by a bomb. Later, with two other men, he escorted back the prisoners under fire, and then returned to report himself for duty before having his wound dressed.”

Chip married Gertrude Clarissa Bridger in London in 1917. In April of 1918, he was discharged, having been found medically unfit because of a deformity of his left foot and right hand (the deformity of his hand would have been the injury he sustained at Courcelette). Chip and Gertrude returned to Spirit River in April of 1918 and raised five children. In World War II, Chip served with the RCAF. He moved to British Columbia after World War II and died in Port Moody on February 19, 1963.

Sources: Chepi Sepe p. 559; Pioneers of the Peace p. 244

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: Albert Dewinter

Image: Street view of Spirit River, showing several businesses, including H. H. McLeod Hardware, A. W. Davies Meat Market, W. Wade Real Estate, Insurance and Notary Public, and Spirit Hardware. The photograph appears to have been contributed by Percy H. Jones of McLennan, Alberta. 1917 (SPRA 032.08.08.1002)

Regiment: Scottish Regiment/ Lake Superior Regiment

Albert Dewinter was born in 1920 in Kentville, Nova Scotia to parents Ted and Abbie Jane (Patterson) Dewinter. There were 10 children in the family. Albert came to Spirit River AB from Nova Scotia by train with his father and 2 siblings in 1927. Four of his siblings and his grandparents had gone ahead of them, and his mother arrived later. In 1932 the family decided to move back to Nova Scotia, but their car broke down in Enilda AB, and they had no money for the train or to repair their vehicle, so they rented a place there and found work. Since Ted was a WW I veteran, he was able to get a government loan to purchase a homestead in nearby New Fish Creek. Albert worked for a rancher in Enilda for a while, and then cleared land for a road into New Fish Creek. In 1942, Albert and his brother, Harry, joined the army. First he was in the Scottish regiment, and stationed in New Westminster. From there he was transferred to the Lake Superior regiment. Albert was posted in England in 1944, and while the rest of his outfit was sent to France, he had to remain because of an operation. Albert was married to Beverly Craine, and after the war they settled and farmed in Enilda. They had 4 children: Frank, Ann, Sally, and Julie. Albert passed away in High Prairie AB in June 1995.

Source: Where the Red Willow Grew pp. 422-423 (photos)
AGS website – Obituary Index

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: Corporal Emile Desilets

Image: excerpt from Emile’s military service file, including a note about his Distinguished Conduct Medal (Library & Archives Canada)

Regimental Number: 628057
Rank: Corporal
Branch: 47th Battalion; 16th Battalion

Emile was born in Ste. Camille, Wolfe County, Quebec on February 3, 1888. He enlisted in Vernon, BC on June 18, 1915, and had previously served with the 11th Regiment, Irish Fusiliers of Canada. While serving overseas, Emile sustained a shrapnel wound to his left arm in June of 1916, and a gunshot wound to his right thigh and buttocks. On September 2, 1918, Emile was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal “For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty on the 2nd September, 1918, in the second battle of Arras. During the fighting he with his section engaged large numbers of the enemy on three occasions as they emerged from dug-outs, bombing the occupants and taking the survivors prisoners. He was slightly wounded when steadying his men under enfilade fire.” Emile filed on a homestead at 35-76-21-W5. He died in Vancouver on December 12, 1955.

Sources: Guy p. 287

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: Roland Deslauriers

Image: Image shows the outside of the Girouxville Museum which features a totem pole, 1990 (SPRA 007.002)

Roland Deslauriers, son of Ernest and Monique (Lapointe) Deslauriers, was born in Montreal, Quebec on October 9, 1912. He moved to Alberta with his family in 1928, first arriving in Dreau, and soon thereafter settling on a homestead near Girouxville. Roland filed for his own homestead, SW 04-78-22-5. He married Germaine Viens, from Fahler, on December 30, 1941. Serving in the army in WW II from 1942 to 1946, Roland was posted in BC – Vancouver, Victoria, and Prince Rupert – operating anti-aircraft guns, before going to Holland and Germany. After returning to Canada, the family farmed their homestead for 2 years, and in September 1948 Roland started work at the Co-op store in Girouxville, becoming manager for 30 years. During this time, he was elected mayor from 1954 to 1958, and he played a big part in bringing water, sewer, natural gas, telephone and other services to the village. In 1970 he was named “Notary Public”. For nearly 50 years Roland was organist in his church. Roland and Germaine moved to BC for a few years, and then settled in St. Albert AB. The Deslauriers had 5 children: Louise, Roger, Evelyne, Annette, and Paul-Henri.

Source: Reflexions pp. 483 (photo)

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: Beatrice Veitch

Image: Part of Beatrice’s Application for Entry for a Soldier Grant.

Beatrice was born ca. 1863 in Odiham, Hampshire, England. Her husband, Alfred Harry Veitch, was killed in the Battle of Coronel on November 1, 1914, while serving as fleet paymaster on the HMS Good Hope. They had been married 24 years at that time, and had two grown daughters, Nesta and Hyacinth. Beatrice volunteered with the Red Cross, making surgical dressings. In 1928, she came to the South Peace with her daughter Nesta and her family, and filed on a homestead at NW 28-70-24-W5. In 1930 she filed on SW 32-70-24-W5. However, the records indicate that she later canceled on both homesteads.

Sources: Where the Red Willow Grew p. 303; Across the Smoky p. 178

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: Jean Farmer Conrad

Image: Jack and Jean Conrad, with children Collin, Calvin and Ann, in front of the Christmas tree, 1955 (SPRA 259.08.06)

Jean Farmer was born, one of four children, in Scotland, north of Edinburgh. During the War, she worked as a cook for the Air Force, including two years with a Canadian Squadron at Lindon. There she met Jack Conrad. They were married June 9, 1945, and ten days later, Jack was shipped home. Jean followed in March, 1946, aboard the Aquitania with other war brides. She was sick for the first two days but then enjoyed the great food. At Pier 21, she remembers the Red Cross ladies taking them shopping – her first experience of an Eaton’s store. Jack met her in Edmonton and they came to Clairmont by train. When they got to Jack’s parents, his mother had saved her largest turkey for the occasion and had invited a Scottish family as well. They raised four children on their farm: Collin, Calvin, Ann and Holly.

Jean Farmer in uniform. Jean spent two years as a cook for the Air Force in England and two years with Canadian squadron 426 in Linton, Yorkshire, England. 1940 (SPRA 259.08.08)

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: William Baird

Image: Golden red pheasant, July 1979 (SPRA 002.05.06.523)

Branch: Royal Field Artillery

William was born in Yorkshire, England on January 27, 1894, though spent most of his boyhood in Ireland. During the first world war, he served in the Royal Field Artillery for four years, in Italy, Greece, and Turkey. William’s brother Reginald served in the Canadian Army. In 1920 he came to Canada and homesteaded at 30-71-10-W6 and 31-71-10-W6 near Beaverlodge. William raised pheasants on his farm and over the years was able to release hundreds of pheasants about the district. In 1937 he married Sadie Martin. The couple had three sons. On July 20, 1969 William and Sadie’s son Sydney was coming back from Texas with a new helicopter and stopped to pick up William and Sadie for a visit to Watson Lake. A mechanical failure in the helicopter forced a crash landing near Fort Nelson. Sydney crawled out to the nearest highway, nearly two miles away, to get help in spite of his injured back, but William was pronounced dead before help arrived.

Sources: Beaverlodge to the Rockies Supplement p. 13; obituary notes

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.