Man spends thousands on wreaths for veterans

Steve
Steve Bartlett
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Wayne Evans

A Mount Pearl man who lays wreaths on veterans’ graves is concerned he might have to scale back his efforts.

Wayne Evans, the driving force behind the Wreaths Across Canada branch in this province, has spent more than $15,000 of his own money in the past two years. He says he can’t afford to continue spending that much, and is appealing for help so he doesn’t have to reduce the number of wreaths planned for a ceremony Dec. 3. “I might have to cut back to the 900 bracket,” he says. “I’m not getting much support.”

Wreaths Across Canada aims to honour and raise awareness of Canadian veterans buried in military graves.

Newfoundland and Labrador is the first and only province to take part so far, although 3,000 wreaths are set to be laid on veterans’ graves at Beachwood Military Cemetery in Ottawa next month.

In December 2009, 800 wreaths were laid on military graves in the Field of Honour at Mount Pleasant Cemetery. Last year, 1,200 were put on veterans’ graves throughout St. John’s and Mount Pearl.

Evans has covered all the costs, outside of the $300 he’s managed to collect.

”You and I know, he can’t afford to keep doing that every year. He’ll go broke,” said Craig McPhee, national president of Wreaths Across Canada.

So McPhee, who has received considerable support in Ottawa, is encouraging Evans to get more people behind the program, a registered charity that has the support of the Canadian Forces, Veterans Affairs and the Royal Canadian Legion (Dominion Command).

Evans hopes going to the media helps him get more people involved and supporting the effort.

The last thing he wants to do is reduce the number of wreaths laid. He says that would break his heart. His dream is to place a wreath at the headstone of every deceased veteran in the province.

Evans is driven by a desire to honour the memory of his father, Fred Evans, a gunner in the 166th Newfoundland Field Regiment, Royal Artillery, during the Second World War.

After his dad died in August 2009, Evans became fixated on “doing something for him and his buddies.”

He recalled seeing Christmas wreaths laid at the Arlington National Cemetery — the resting place for more than 14,000 U.S. veterans in Virginia — and wondered about doing something similar here.

Evans sought out a wreath supplier and found one in the Sobeys flyer. He promptly contacted the New Brunswick-based Wilson Wreath Company, which supplies the grocery chain.

He learned a man in Ottawa had inquired about doing the same thing. An hour or so later, McPhee was on the phone with Evans, who offered to make Newfoundland and Labrador the first province to come on board.

A few weeks later, Evans and some volunteers, including McPhee, laid 800 wreaths on the graves of veterans at the Mount Pleasant Cemetery after a small ceremony.

It’s a sight that moves Evans, who believes veterans should be remembered every day and on every occasion.

“You see that at Christmastime, and if you can go in there and that does nothing to you, you should be doing something else, mercenary or something. It brings tears to my eyes now just talking about it.”

Evans teaches at the College of the North Atlantic and has been involved in a few businesses. Asked why he’s willing to fork over so much of his own money on the wreaths, he quickly responds, “Who better to spend it on than those guys?”

For more information, or to donate, visit www.wacnl.ca.

 

sbartlett@thetelegram.com Twitter: bartlett_steve

Organizations: College of the North Atlantic, Canadian Forces, Veterans Affairs Royal Canadian Legion Dominion Command Sobeys Wilson Wreath Company

Geographic location: Canada, Ottawa, Newfoundland and Labrador Mount Pearl U.S. Virginia

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  • stephen
    November 12, 2011 - 08:41

    I think the 15000.00 would be better spent helping the veterns who need it,not to say the wreaths aren,t important,but some veterns are living in poverty.That in itself is a disgrace in this country when our veterns live in poverty while we immigrate the same idealistic terrorist who want to kill or maim them. If you don,t think so,move to Ontario. I can.t wait to come back to the rock.