Receiving a letter on behalf of her majesty when turning 100: an honour and no small feat

By Chadd Cawson Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

You do not have to be of British ancestry for Queen Elizabeth II to have held a special place in your heart. She was a remarkable woman and her reign of queen commenced on February 6, 1952, successing her father, George VI. Queen Elizabeth II was the longest-reigning British monarch and female head of state on record, reigning for a total of 70 years and 214 days. She was queen regnant of 32 sovereign states over the span of her lifetime, and queen regnant of 15 at the time of her passing at the age of 96 on Sept. 8 in her home at Balmoral Castle, in Aberdeenshire, United Kingdom.

Many will remember Queen Elizabeth II in a myriad of ways. Her presence lived in the school systems, and many sporting arenas. There are those that followed her in the media, those that attended her garden parties, and there were worldwide visits. Some may find irony in the well-known fact that if you accomplished the feat of living life until 100 and beyond,  you would receive a letter on behalf of Her Majesty and from the prime minister. Queen Elizabeth II,  who seemed to be forever young to many because of her long reign, was just under four years shy of that accomplishment herself. Resident James Ashworth, now a sprightly 102, shares it was an honour to receive that letter. The queen’s passing created a moment of reflection for him like it did for many;  he shared he lost his own queen, his late wife, this time last year.

“When I heard of her passing, I had to stop and think about it. It wasn’t just a passing thing as far as I’m concerned,” said Ashworth. “It felt pretty good to receive that letter, just like how I feel right now. I like to stay positive; my feelings these days are you have to stay positive. You are born to die, which is a terrible thing to say but the queen had a beautiful life all the way through, there was nothing the matter with it.  It’s a new era coming up now. 

“I can remember during World War II she was driving an ambulance to start with, as a public service. She only twenty some-odd years old at the time. She then got into the mechanical scene somewhere along the line,” recalled Ashworth.

Prime Minister Trudeau declared in Ottawa last week that September 19 would be a national holiday to reflect on the incredible life of Canada’s queen. The B.C. government joined other provinces to observe this past Monday, Sept. 19, as a National Day of Mourning to mark the queen’s funeral which took at Westminster Abbey in London.  This day was observed by federal employees and K-12 public schools and public post-secondary institutions, as well as most Crown corporations.  

“I’m not the type of guy who is going to shed tears over this type of thing, it’s a thing I will remember when I’m at the legion,” said Ashworth.

Here in the valley, residents had the opportunity to pay tribute and mourn the late queen in a ceremony which started with a Colour Party march that left the legion at 10:30 a.m., by special invitation only. Those who attended waited at the Cenotaph where two minutes of silence commenced at 11 a.m.  followed by the laying of wreaths and speeches. In attendance were the RCMP and Mayor Al Miller, who spoke about the queen.  Following speeches, the Colour Party marched back to Legion where coffee and tea were served. Royal Canadian Legion Branch 71 is located on the  unceded territories of the Secwépemc and Ktunaxa peoples and the land chosen as home by the Métis Peoples of B.C.

Those that decided to mourn the queen in the privacy of their own home could choose to watch the funeral held Westminster Abbey, which aired live at 11 a.m. local time (6 a.m. EST) on Sept 19. Queen Elizabeth II is the first monarch to have a funeral at Westminster Abbey since King George II’s death in 1760. This special event was televised by several networks, most notably the BBC. 

Even if the royal family and British monarchy are not your cup of tea, the queen’s passing certainly marks the end of an era. For the first time in over 70 years, the royal national anthem will be God Save the King once again. But Queen Elizabeth II’s memory will live on.