Queen Elizabeth II lives in the hearts of many in region

It’s no secret that Queen Elizabeth lives in the hearts of many. Her death on September 8 at the age of 96 was felt around the world. In 2022, Queen Elizabeth II became the first British Monarch to reign for more than 70 years.

I had the privilege of talking with three people who were willing to share with me their memories of the Queen. It was obvious from all three that Queen Elizabeth will always live in their hearts.

ROBERT HOLMES

Robert Holmes was born in Emo in 1935, to British-born parents Gerald and Patricia Holmes.

In 1953, he turned 18 and joined the Royal Canadian Armed Forces, along with his best friend Bill Lenox. After leaving Fort Frances, travelling to Winnipeg and going through all the medical and other testing requirements they were accepted into the Forces. Robert proudly remembers both him and Bill swearing into the alliance to protect Canada and King George.

Two weeks later the two men were sent to Montreal.

At that time thousands of people had joined the Airforce from the western provinces. They were stationed in St. John’s Quebec, where they attended. There Robert learned his trade as an aircraft refinished.

Robert was stationed several places in Canada. He remembers while working on Macdonald Manitoba, a message coming over the loud speaker that he was required to report to the office. He was informed he was being sent to Zewbruken Germany, there he would be working on Sabre Fighter Aircrafts. He was there three and a half years.

From there, he was sent to Langre England. Robert was told he was the last person, to be trained in his trade from Canada and that trade was needed in England. He worked on transfer aircraft for seven and a half years.

Robert became an Honour Guard while in England. He did this from age thirty to thirty three ( 1965-1968 ) The Honour Guard was made up of twenty five men. As Robert puts it they were honour guards for Queen Elizabeth and any other mucky mucks.

All guards were required to carry rifles. The guns were never used, but they were required to do the salute.

Much of the Air Forces were made up of Canadian and British men.

Some “ prisoners of war “ that were Canadians asked to join the Canadian Air Force , which meant they could be on the Honour Guard protecting the Queen and any other mucky mucks.

The Royal Canadian Air Force Honour Guards would also be present at funerals for the soldiers.

Robert remembers the Queen visiting the base in Langre. About 200 honour guards were lined up and the Queen inspected and spoke to each guard. Robert fondly remembers the Queen asking, “Have you been in the Air Force long and where are you from?” Robert replied, ”Not too long and I’m from Fort Frances.” The Queen said “Thank you,” and continued down the line.

Queen Elizabeth had just recently become the Queen. Robert really liked her – she was talkative, well dressed, approachable and never said anything negative.

Robert remembers when he was in England going to Buckingham Palace, hoping to see the Queen. The staff said she was busy in the garage. The Queen loved working on cars, said Robert. She had worked on vehicles and drove trucks while in the army and wasn’t afraid of getting her hands dirty.

She also loved horses, and Robert felt it was a touching tribute for the RCMP to lead the funeral procession from Buckingham Palace.

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip spent a lot of time in Canada – it may well have been one of their favourite countries to visit, noted Robert.

He feels the marriage between Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip was a strong, loving relationship and he admires that they had made a pact to be buried together.

Arlene Rae has collected Royal memorabilia over the years, in honour of her motherland. From the left is the 1935 Silver Jubilee teacup for King George V and Queen Mary. Centre, is the 1937 Coronation commemorative teacup for King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mum). On the right is the 1952 Coronation commemorative teacup for Queen Elizabeth II. In front is a charm bracelet, with multiple charms honouring the Monarchy.
– Submitted photo

Robert loved the Monarchy, and will continue to support it until his dying day. He still thinks of England as his “Motherland”. If anything happened in Britain, he would travel there to help out any way he could.

Robert is very aware that the education system no longer acknowledges the Queen or many other traditions that were once in the school curriculum. He feels “ students should still sing “ God save the Queen ( now being God save the King) Robert also feels the Lords Prayer should still be said daily.

He understands the Government wants diversity, but sometimes “We have to stand for something or we will fall for anything.”

Robert was shocked when he heard of the Queen Elizabeth’s passing. Robert had been watching the T.V. around the clock once the day that news broke that her health had failed and she was taken to Belmoral Castle. He was confident she would recover, but it wasn’t to be.

Upon hearing of her death, he cried; the lump in his throat just would not go away.

She was his saviour – a legacy to Canada. Yes, the monarchy has endured much hardship and scandal over the years, and Robert will always hold a special place in his heart for Lady Diana, but he feels the Queen is truly a mother figure to him. Her passing was like a family member had passed away.

Robert was up at 5 a.m. to watch the Queen’s funeral on September 18. He is sad, very sad as are many of his friend at the sister Kennedy Centre , where Robert spends a lot of time and is grateful for the support this group of seniors share. Everyone there loved the Queen.

Since the passing of the Queen, Robert has received a beautiful hard-covered book from the Royal Canadian Air Force in Ottawa, in honour of his service to the Queen.

I had the privilege of looking through the book, as I shared a cup of tea with Robert and I can surely see why this book with amazing pictures and writings of the Monarchy was so bittersweet.

Robert feels he has lived a very fulfilled life. He’s enjoyed many a blessing of family, friends and his connection to the monarchy.

As I closed off my visit with Robert his last words to me were, “My life has been fulfilled because of the Monarchy.”

ARLENE RAE

Arlene Rea told me about her memories of the Queen. Arlene’s grandparents and Mother came from England and her family was always passionate about the Royal family.

In 1959, Arlene was 17, working at McKellar Hospital as an aid, before she began nursing school.

The Queen and Prince Phillip came to Thunder Bay to open the “seaway”; it was the final destination of any sea ships coming in down the St Lawrence. The Royal couple were making a visit to McKellar Hospital during the tour. The hospital management had decided a ward of mostly gentleman – about 40 in all – would be taken in their wheel chairs outside to meet the Queen and Prince Phillip. Arlene is guessing the gentleman were war veterans. At that time the Director of Nursing and two of the head nurses had served in WW2.

She remembers Prince Phillip came first.

“I was only seventeen, and I remember him being the most handsome man I’d ever seen,” said Arlene. The Queen walked behind her husband and Arlene remembers asking herself, “Should I curtesy?” She can’t recall if she said hello to either of the royal couple. Arlene remembers it was a beautiful day, speeches were given, and it truly was a memorable day for the gentleman, nursing staff and all who attended.

Arlene remembers the Queen having beautiful skin, but being very thin and looking very weary. After returning, Queen Elizabeth announced her third pregnancy, with Andrew.

Arlene’s coffee table always displays Royal magazines. She’s watched every Royal funeral, wedding and Coronation.

Arlene, her Mother (Kathleen) and her sister Lynne-Anne have made the trip to England and enjoyed the traditions, connecting them with strong roots of their past.

Arlene has felt sorry for the Queen, many times with so many family problems. As she says, “All families have problems, hers just had too many.”

Arlene was extremely sad the day of the Queen’s passing and couldn’t help but think of the sorrow her grandparents and parents would have felt to see the day.

Arlene was in the Children’s Choir at the time of the Queen’s Coronation, June 2, 1953. She was 11 years old. At the time, Fort Frances native Norman Kelvin was the conductor, and had started the Children’s Choir in Fort William’s Schools.

The choir did a special tribute to the Queen to a packed audience at the Fort William Gardens. The gardens was decorated beautifully to pay tribute to Britain and the Queen. From what Arlene remembers the gardens were decorated with a huge white flag with E11 Regina (Regina means the Queen). Arlene remembers several others performed at the ceremony, including a Scottish band.

Arlene has fond memories of singing Rule Britannia and she’s quite sure the Choir performed God Save The Queen.

Kelvin went onto form the Fort William’s Male Choir, which is still active today and known around the world.

Arlene loved the Queen, and was very saddened by her passing. She watched the funeral, and felt immense grief, but she’s grateful for her strong connection with the monarchy. Queen Elizabeth is gone. But for Arlene, she will never be forgotten.

GISELLE CALDER

I sat and shared Giselle Boileau Calder’s many happy memories the Queen. It was easy to see her dear mother Jean Boileau instilled in not only Giselle, but her entire family her love for Britain, the Monarchy and especially Queen Elizabeth.

Jean (McEwan) was a war bride. She was born in 1921 in England. When World War II broke out, Jean was only too happy to do her bit. She signed up for the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force where she was an instructor, teaching flyers the latest techniques with telephone operations.

Little did she know her life would be turned upside down one night when she and some of her friends went to the cinema. They were in front of some “Flyers” from Canada. One in particular Lin Boileau took a shine to Jean. That lad from Fort Frances invited her to share a cuppa (tea) after the theatre. Even though Jean was engaged at the time, she accepted the invitation and the rest was history. The previous engagement was broken off, to her family’s total surprise, and Jean and Lin’s marriage took place the following year November 7, 1942.

By the time the war ended Jean and Lin had a son, Michael.

A new chapter of Jean’s life began upon boarding the Aquitania, which headed out to sea, destined for Canada. After six days, they arrived in Halifax. As they stepped off the ship, “Here Comes The Bride” was playing. This always stuck a funny cord with the overseas “War Brides” as they had all been married for several years and were in tow with small children.

Life was not easy for Jean, she was away from all her family in England, she had to embrace her new family. Some did not fully embrace the fact that Lin had married someone from overseas. Some of the community also didn’t embrace this marriage.

The brides later developed a very special bond together they formed the “Overseas War Brides Club” which kept active with monthly meetings Jean was a vital part of this up until her passing at the age of eighty nine in 2011.

Jean taught herself to be a great homemaker, and raise a family of nine children. Jean embraced her new community and country. She became a proud Canadian in 1983, she had lived in Canada since 1947.

It took her a long time to decide to do it, because of her loyalty to England.

During Jeans lifetime she was very active in making the district a more enriched place to live. Jean spearheaded Little Theatre, joined the Catholic Church and became a CWL member, Friends of the Library, and always was available for her “War Bride Friends”.

It’s easy to see Jean was a vibrant lady, and although always busy with home and community. Giselle shared with me “She always had a passion to educate and keep and her children connected with her home land, both country, Queen and the Monarchy. Jean brought up all her children to respect the monarchy.

Every celebration be it weddings or funerals were watched, many with Jean and her children and grandchildren gathering together if possible. Fancy sandwiches would be served and tea, often a toast would be had, to honour the special occasion. The morning of Queen Elizabeth’s funeral, Sharla came to Giselle ( her mom’s) at 5 a.m. to watch the funeral. They shared a traditional English breakfast. The impact of the Queens death was very emotional for them both. It was more special to Giselle knowing her granddaughter that’s away at university was watching the funeral along with them. Giselle and her family had a lot of contact with their family in England since the passing of the Queen, many a tear has been shared and memories relived. Giselle and her family from England have a FB page “Cousins Across The Pond” They are all very close, all but a few have been to Fort Frances. Giselle had an Aunt Audrey still living in England and a brother Keith who just recently turned ninety.

Lin sometimes couldn’t understand how and why it was so important for his wife to keep her connection with England, as he grew older he fully understood. Thankfully in recent years with technology and cheaper phone rates it became so much easier for communicating. Jean kept her family informed on all that was going on, marriages, graduations, new births and of course what was happening in the Royal family.

Giselle and her none of her family has met the Queen, however she feels her. This is because of Jean, always keeping in touch with her family in England, it truly was their second home and country, even though miles kept them apart.

Jean and Lin did visit England; Giselle has been there four times.

Giselle is often at a Legion event and when the singing of God Save The Queen is sang, she often tears up and truly feels her Mother is standing beside her.

Giselle feels the Queen was a very classy lady, and she loved her hats and bright colours. Giselle did share with me, she had recently heard the Queen wore bright colours so she could be seen easier by security.

She admires the marriage between Queen Elizabeth Prince Phillip; she believes it was true love story from beginning until his passing day.

Giselle has strut at times with the Queen, she feels the Queen played a big part in Charles and Diana getting married, and she wasn’t happy the way she handled Diana’s death.

Giselle does feel sympathy for the Queen during her last years with the drama and chaos the family put her through.

Giselle has no feelings one way or the other on what happens with the Commonwealth.

She hopes the people make the connection with King Charles, and the country rallies around and supports him. For now, Giselle doesn’t feel the same connection with King Charles as she did the Queen. She’s thinking it may come and that in time she may warm up to Camilla. She also hopes to see William as King one day.

Giselle shared with me, that although she’s sad of the Queen’s passing, she’s happy that she always had strong connections with the Queen and Royal family and most importantly happy that her mother Jean knew the importance of family ties and keeping memories alive! Giselle feels blessed!

I’d like to thanks these three people for sharing their memories, and tributes to the Queen. It’s proof Queen Elizabeth is gone, but not forgotten.