On March 3rd the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 86 (Wetaskiwin) will be celebrating its 90th anniversary. To honour this long standing tradition of supporting and remembering veterans and their families, and serving our community we will be sharing regular ‘briefings’ of branch happenings and a short story of Branch Members and local veterans over the past 90 years.
There is no better place to start than with the story of our first Branch President, Norman MacEachern. Norman was born in Quebec, and moved to the Wetaskiwin area in 1897 when he was only three with his parents Duncan and Jennie. He later became a member of the 19th Alberta Dragoons, and in 1913 joined the Militia Squadron of the 35th Central Alberta Horse that was organized in Wetaskiwin. He attended the School of Cavalry instruction courses and graduated as a non-commissioned officer. He had been working with his father at the family mill when at the age of 21 he enlisted in Edmonton and joined the 194th Battalion. In October 1916 MacEachern was deployed overseas and transferred to the 10th Battalion A Company and saw combat in France, including Vimy Ridge and Hill 70. He was recommended for the Victoria Cross, twice mentioned in dispatches, and was the only Canadian Soldier to win the Distinguished Service Order and Bar while holding a commission as lieutenant. He was severely wounded in September 1918 and spent five months in a military hospital in England before being discharged with the rank of Captain and returning home to Wetaskiwin in February 1919. Cpt. MacEachern became a successful business man who helped to bring businesses such as the Carnation Plant and Supreme Farm MFG. Outfit to Wetaskiwin, He also organized the Veterans Volunteer Reserve, and along with Curt Paul Smith, the Air Cadets in 1942. A few years later, in 1947, he installed his son Don, also a veteran, as President of the growing Legion. Cpt. MacEachern, D.S.O. passed away on September 6th, 1965 at the age of 71 years and three days. He is buried in the Wetaskiwin Cemetery. Ninety years ago, Branch 86 had only 50 members, today that number is over 800.
December 2019 and the first couple weeks of 2020 have proven be busy at the Branch, including installing a new Branch Executive and Ladies Auxiliary.
Members of the Branch Executive, along with volunteers Jen and Ty Wilkinson had a great couple of days looking at all of the amazing entries for the Youth Poster and Literary Contest. Decisions this year were particularly hard with nearly 70 entries from most of our local schools. We also had the pleasure of presenting cheques of $1,307.65 each (proceeds from November 11, 2019 Remembrance Day services) to the Wetaskiwin Secret Santa program and WCHS Band. A special thank you goes out to the community for your generous contribution.
The Ladies Auxiliary (L.A.) hosted the Branch’s very well attended annual Kids Christmas Party and made donations to various local community groups including Victim Services, Secret Santa, Wetaskiwin Food Bank, Neighbours Outreach Wetaskiwin, Hope Mission, Long Term Care at the Wetaskiwin Hospital, and Medi-Lend. Meanwhile, their newly formed Junior L.A. joined the Heritage Museum’s Youth Network to help deliver Christmas packages to residents at Seasons of items donated by the community.
Things do not seem to be slowing down over the next month or so either. On Sunday January 19th we have our monthly Pancake Breakfast (9-12:30). Then on Saturday January 25th we will be celebrating Scotland’s favourite Poet with our annual Robbie Burns Night. Cocktails begin at 5 and the McKinnon Scottish Dancers will perform at 6. A full Haggis buffet, for only $21.95, and multiple toasts will follow. If you are looking for the perfect place for Valentine’s Day, don’t wait to make your reservation at the Legion for a steak fry and D.J. The Buffet will include a 6 oz. Rib Eye and, shrimp for only $19.95. Also don’t forget that we have Drop in Fun Darts Tuesdays at 7, Drop in Pool on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7-9 ($1 / person), and new to the branch, Wednesday Night Poker, with dealing beginning at 7pm sharp. All of these events are open to members and guests!
The next General Meeting will be held on Tuesday, January 21 at 7:00 pm. We would like to remind all members that annual membership fees are due and the orange access cards to the club are no longer active.
Branch 86 Briefings is submitted by the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 86