by Esther Darlington MacDonald
It isn’t often that we turn our minds to philanthropy, the definition of which is “love of humankind” and “effort to promote the happiness and well being of one’s fellow people”.
But the work done by our Royal Canadian Legion Branch 113 certainly contains in its mandate that degree of aid and willingness to support “the well being” of people in the community. Much of the good work that the Legion does is not generally known. There is more to the Legion than those Friday night suppers and the meat draws on Saturday afternoon, though these events certainly help to raise the money that helps others. But the “good that men do (and women, too) is much more. And we are going to tell you a little about it.
Flo Berry is a 35 year member of Legion Branch 113. She and her late husband Gordon Berry moved to Ashcroft in 1988. Since that year, you might describe Flo as one of the most active women in our comunity. Flo was President for two years and has filled, she says, “all the other executive offices” including “chairing the Poppy campaign, chairing the Membership Committee, and she is on the House Committee. She adds also, another important function.
“I do all the bursaries for the schools in Ashcroft and Cache Creek”.
The remembrance of wars past and present and the sacrifice of the many thousands who gave their lives to preserve our way of life is still the fundamental purpose behind the sale of poppies. The importance of remembering is stressed by the wearing of the poppies by everyone from our legislative and federal members of governments, and by almost everyone during the days prior to remembrance day services and ceremonies. These ceremonies continue to be one of the most important events of any community anywhere in North America. That is no small deal, as they say.
Every year Flo has approached the schools to get the annual national contest for the best posters and essays of remembrance underway. Winners at the elementary school level to high school are involved and the winners win a trip for two to Ottawa to represent Canada’s youth at the national remembrance day ceremony on Nov. 11. Anyone who has ever watched the ceremonies in Ottawa on TV can’t failed to be impressed by the solemnity, dignity and emotional impact of those ceremonies. It is an experience a young person will never forget.
Sure, there are some who feel that it is better to forgive and forget such things as wars with all the carnage and pain they have inflicted. But those who feel remembering keeps the balance of justice and the weight of perception of the history of wars and what it does and has done to the world of humanity in focus have a compelling argument. Forgiving and forgetting in the hindsight of time is all too easy. But remembering puts the brake on humanity’s capacity to destroy. It is, in the end, all about consequences.
Now the awarding of bursaries to students to help with post-secondary education is another vital function of the Legion. An award that, no doubt, makes the receiver happy and not a little proud. This is part and parcel of the definition of philanthropy. Every year, the Legion committee considers who will receive these awards. Family income is a large factor. And the judgements are very carefully considered.
When a Legion family member dies and there is a need for financial help for funeral and monument expenses, the Legion will undertake that responsibility.
The Legion also sponsors the Sea Cadets, a growing movement in the area which has become very visible at various community functions in recent years. This character building is essential to the mental and physical well being of young people. Recently, the cadets raised money to go to Halifax to witness the Battle of the Atlantic ceremonies. The Legion has contributed $1,500 toward the expense.
Flo has been a Royal Purple member of Branch 263 for 45 years. Was president and also past president of the District Health Care auxiliary.
The Legion also sponsors the cubs and scouts of Canada, and recently gave the Ashcroft Volunteer Fire Dept. a generous donation towards a new piece of equipment. Flo points out that the donation came from the Poppy fund. Other donations include the Thompson View Manor for building improvements.
There is scarcely a part of our community that the Legion has not touched.
Flo’s working life in Ashcroft has not only been vitally connected to the Legion Branch 113. For some years Flo sold ads for The Journal newspaper for special events.
Flo has two daughters: Patti, who lives in 100 Mile House and is an emergency nurse at the hospital there, nd Bonnie, who is the radiologist at Maple Ridge hospital. A son passed away in Edmonton five years ago.
Her late husband Gordon served as an air navigator in the second world war. Made 17 missions. Over Germany, their plane was attacked and three of the five crew members were able to parachute out, but were captured by the Germans and interred in a POW camp. Not long after, the war was over and Gordon arrived home safely.
Such a busy, productive life, most of it in the service of others. We salute you, Flo! God Bless!