By Lorene Keitch
One local woman instigated a chain of events that led to an Australian soldier being honoured in a Saskatchewan ceremony last Tuesday.
Elinor Florence, local author and former Pioneer publisher, writes a blog about interesting stories of men and women involved in wartimes. One story was not just interesting; it was personal.
Elinors mother June lived in North Battleford, Saskatchewan when Max Cassidy was posted there for training during the Second World War. On her blog, Elinor writes that her mother had a whirlwind romance with the cocky Royal Australian Air Force pilot from Australia. The two talked of marriage.
Max died in a training accident Dec. 4, 1944. His aircraft had crashed; Max deployed his parachute but was too low to the ground and died on impact.
In a letter written to the Cassidy family following Maxs death, June wrote, Max and I knew each other only a very short time, but in that time we got to know each other so well that it seems queer to realize that I only knew him for three weeks.
Elinor grew up hearing of Max and several years ago wrote his story on her blog.
I always thought that was kind of a sweet, sad story, reflects Elinor.
That would be the end of the story, except that the power of the Internet connected Elinor to a great niece of Max through Facebook. That rekindled the discussion about Max, and the woman was thrilled to learn that Maxs Canadian sweetheart was still alive and living in Invermere, B.C. Then later, a more distant relative of Max, who is currently a major serving with the United Nations in the South Sudan, also reached out to Elinor. He found her website and learned of his familys history in North Battleford, Saskatchewan.
Hes very proud of his familys military tradition, Elinor says.
The major got in touch with a contact of his in Canada, who in turn contacted the North Battleford legion, about honouring Max with a wreath on Anzac Day Australia and New Zealands annual day of remembrance.
And so, 73 years after a 19-year-old Australian died in a town far from home, his sweethearts son (Elinor’s younger brother Rob) and daughter-in law as well as members of North Battleford Legion, laid a wreath and paid their respects to a long-lost son of war.
Elinor was interviewed by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation about the story on Anzac Day. She played the interview for her mother, now 93, and says she wiped away a tear when she heard the story.
Elinor comments this story shows the incredible power of the internet, to enable these types of connections to take place.