It was just a little thing that Carol Stevens noticed but it became something much bigger.
She knew that her dad and her uncle served in World War II but their names weren’t listed among those in the honour roll hanging on the wall at Huntsville’s post office. If they weren’t there, she wondered, who else was missing?
Back in 2015, aided by friend Linda Wilson and under the auspices of the Huntsville and Area Historical Society (HAHS), Stevens began with the list of more than 300 from the post office and then started searching for people from all four of the townships that Huntsville now encompasses—Chaffey, Brunel, Stisted, and Stephenson. By the time the research was done, there were more than 660 names, 19 of them women, the rest men. There are likely more that, despite best efforts, she couldn’t track down.
Whatever details Stevens could unearth about each person has been compiled into binders. HAHS has one and today she presented copies to the Royal Canadian Legion branch 232 and Huntsville Public Library. It will be an excellent resource for those visiting both facilities.
“You’d be surprised how many people come in, even if they’re not members, and look through it,” says Mandi Boothby of the Legion’s display and archive of memorabilia, books and documents. Until Remembrance Day, some items are also on display at Huntsville Place Mall.
If you have items at home from family members who served during wartime, “Do not throw it out,” says Boothby. The Legion’s collection includes both men’s and women’s uniforms, medals, blankets, rations, diaries, and more. Drop by or contact the Legion if you have any items to donate.
“When people want information, this is where people come to get it,” adds Cortney LeGros, Huntsville Public Library’s Coordinator: Outreach, Programs & Partnerships. “When we can have a fuller picture, it’s really great for us to have those resources…this type of information is invaluable.”
Stevens checked census records and in 1931, the nearest date to World War II available, the total population of Huntsville and the then-surrounding townships was 5748 by her calculations. If we assume that the population didn’t increase much in the following decade, she says, and that roughly half of those people were adults, and half of those adults were men, then almost half of the men living in the area at the time served in the war.
“My aunt said that during the war, you’d walk down the main street and you never saw a single man,” says Stevens. “If they weren’t in the armed forces, they were away working.”
The information came from newspaper archives and details that local residents, those descended from the men and women who served, came forward with.
Each of the binders have a pocket at the front with slips of paper for anyone with additional information about someone listed, or someone who is missing from the compilation, to record the details and send them to Stevens. Some have suggested that she turn it into a book, but she says that would be a project for someone else. She’s just happy to have completed it.
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