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Wreaths of remembrance


Wayne Evans holds a wreath that will be placed on a veteran's gravesite on Dec. 3. (Reprinted with permission from The Telegram.)

By David Penney

On Dec. 12, 2009, Memorial alumnus Wayne Evans organized a ceremony that saw a wreath laid at each of the 800 headstones of veterans resting in the Field of Honour at Mount Pleasant Cemetery in St. John's. The ceremony called on family members and the general public to participate in the act of wreath laying, and it is one that Mr. Evans hopes will be an annual tradition across Newfoundland and Labrador.

"There are so many veterans buried here in Newfoundland and Labrador," said Mr. Evans. "Plus, there is such a lonely feeling in those cemeteries, especially around Christmastime. The timing is also right as we're just coming off our remembrance ceremonies in November."

Coincidentally, around the time that Mr. Evans was working on his initial wreath laying ceremony, a national organization called Wreaths Across Canada was also being formed. Mr. Evans reached out to that group and in doing so formally established a Newfoundland and Labrador chapter. The national organization will hold their first ceremony this year, laying 3,000 wreaths at Beachwood Military Cemetery in Ottawa, Ont.

This year will mark the third ceremony for Newfoundland and Labrador. Mr. Evans points that out that his approach is slightly different from the one in the nation's capital.

"The national organization is more focused on military cemeteries, but what I want to do is lay a wreath at every veteran's grave in Newfoundland and Labrador, no matter where they're buried," he said. "In 2010 we were able to lay an additional 400 wreaths outside the Field of Honour, but we need to do more. Obviously fundraising is critical, but I also need people to take on responsibility for their family members and for those who have no one to represent them – in every cemetery in every community across this province."

A longtime instructor at the College of the North Atlantic, Mr. Evans is also a four-time graduate of Memorial University. He explained that the motivation behind his work on behalf of veterans is very personal, and it's also connected to his gratitude for the opportunities he's had in his own life.

"My Dad, Fred Evans, was a veteran from the Second World War. He was a gunner in the 166th Newfoundland Field Regiment, Royal Artillery. When he passed away in 2009, I knew I had to do something to recognize him and his buddies, the ones who made it back. I've had some great opportunities in my life and I've never had to worry about going to war. I think we all need to take a little more time to appreciate what we have, and maybe think about what life could have been like had those individuals decided not to sacrifice so much on our behalf."

Wreaths Across Canada NL branch will be holding its third annual wreath-laying ceremony at 11 a.m. on Dec. 3 at Mount Pleasant Cemetery on Hamilton Avenue in St. John's. Families of veterans and the general public are invited to help lay wreaths. For more information on how to participate, donate or volunteer, please visit www.wacnl.ca.

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