Ceremony in St. John's includes British woman who for years has visited Walter Pike’s grave in Ashford, Kent
A special ceremony was held Monday afternoon when a memorial stone was unveiled at the base of the Memorial on Parade Parkette at the RNC’s provincial headquarters at Fort Townshend in St. John's.
The stone is in remembrance of Walter Kitchener Pike — a gunner with the Royal Artillery, 59 (Newfoundland) Heavy Regiment in the Second World War.
Pike died in a motorcycle accident in France on Oct. 1, 1941 at age 26. He had been granted a medical discharge and was awaiting transport home to Newfoundland when the accident occurred.
Frank Pike, 89, the youngest brother — and only surviving sibling — of Pike, was just 12 at the time. He was devastated, as he had looked up to his brother more as a father figure than a brother.
Frank Pike took part in the unveiling on Monday, along with Judith Holloway of the United Kingdom. It was Holloway’s first time in Newfoundland and Labrador. She has become endeared to the Pike family after they learned through an article in The Telegram that for years she and her daughter had been visiting Pike’s gravesite at Bybrook cemetery in Ashford, Kent.
Frank Pike said he had always wanted to go visit his brother's grave, but wasn't able to. Knowing that Holloway and her family have been visiting his brother’s grave has brought a sense of closure to him for the emptiness he has felt over the years.
He said on Monday he finds it “unbelievable the kindness that Holloway and her family have shown.”
Holloway, whose husband’s grave is in the same cemetery, said she had noticed the lone Newfoundlander’s grave and felt terrible that he was so far from home.
She knew little of Newfoundland and Labrador, but began to research the province and Pike.
“You can imagine my surprise after looking at our cemetery records to discover that Walter was billeted and had died in the town in which I live,” she said. “I went on a journey to discover what I could of Walter’s story in the U.K.”
That journey led to contact with Frank Pike and his family, and the sharing of her research. Then came the trip to the province to meet the Pike family and take part in the ceremony on Monday.
“I was determined to come here and to meet up with Frank and his family and see your country at the same time,” she told those gathered at the ceremony.
“I was lucky to have my sister-in-law, Christine, accompany me and we have both been so excited and over-awed by everything, especially such kindness, and I am thrilled that we can be part of such a well-deserved ceremony honouring Walter today.”
RNC Chief Joe Boland also attended the event, saying the story hit home for him, as his own father, John Boland, served as a gunner in the same regiment as Walter Pike during the Second World War.
His father’s name is also engraved at the memorial on Parade Parkette.
“This is something close to my heart,” Boland said.