Some of the crosses may have disappeared, and there are headstones with missing information, but those laid to rest on the civilian side of the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in Gander won’t be forgotten.
The war graves contain 100 burial sites from the Second World War. However, following the war, the cemetery was used to bury Gander’s deceased. While the site is maintained and the airmen are memorialized, areas of the civilian side had begun to fade.
Earlier this year, the Gander Lions Club embarked on a mission to preserve the memory of civilians laid to rest as part of the international Lions centennial, which challenged all chapters to leave a life-lasting project in its communities.
That mission has since been accomplished in Gander, as the civilian monument was mounted on Sept. 11, with the names of 580 people laid to rest. The official unveiling is set to take place Sunday, Sept. 23, 2 p.m. at the War Graves site.
According to club president Perry Kieley, the memorial originally started with a list of 260 known names, but after contacting area churches, along with availing of social and news media, that list grew at an alarming rate. Approximately 250 of the names have no marker at the site today.
“To get that type of response is absolutely remarkable,” said Kieley. “It goes to show, that even though there are no markers for some of these people, they were never really forgotten.
“The whole goal of this was to make sure people would remember them, and as of now, I feel like we’ve accomplished that.”
The final project cost hasn’t been totalled yet, but Kieley said, along with contributions from the Town of Gander, the business community, and fundraisers supported 100 per cent by the
people of Gander and surrounding area, it will pay for the project.
Betty Snow of Carbonear couldn’t help but get a little emotional, speaking about it. After years of searching, Snow and her husband Dennis will soon have a place to pay their respect to Baby Girl Snow, Dennis’ sister, who died during childbirth in November 1946. The exact location of her burial was never known.
“She was one of three babies with three crosses buried by the Salvation Army,” said Snow. “We could never find out which grave was hers, so we could never put a marker on it.”
In reaching out to the Lions Club, Baby Girl Snow was the last of the 580 names to be added to the monument, which was being engraved when the Lions Club confirmed she had been buried there.
“When I was told she would be added, I get emotional just thinking about it, it made my day,” she said, while passing along high praise to the Lions Club for taking on the project.
“To have these people get some recognition after so many years, I think they are absolute heroes.”
Snow is hoping it will help determine the exaction location of Baby Girl Snow’s resting place.
“Now that this is coming out, we are hoping we can find more information on these babies, as we’d like to be able to put a stone in place, with her birth on it,” she said.
Until then, the memorial gives them a place to pay their respects.
Jerry Pretty, now living in Bedford, Nova Scotia, visit’s the site every year, to carry out maintenance at the resting place of his brother – Bob Pretty. His brother was 14 years old when he succumbed to injuries sustained after being struck by a drunk driver on Christmas night in 1971.
His father, Harry Pretty, who passed 11 years ago, was cremated and buried with his son at the site as well.
Visiting the Commonwealth War Graves earlier this year, he had seen the ongoing construction and stopped to ask about the work.
While his brother and father were never one of the lost sites, after carrying out some online research, Pretty reached out to the Lions Club.
“It really is a wonderful project, they put so much time and effort in putting it together, I think it’s great,” he said. “I was really happy to hear about it.”
The unmarked sites aren’t lost on Pretty either.
“I’ve always sort of wondered who some of these people were,” he said. “It’s great they were able to identify so many names and piece together the history of the cemetery.”