Ronnie’s moment of fame

Ronnie Egan wears her beret and Women’s Royal Navy Service identification in May 2015.

About a month ago, a CBC television reporter from Nova Scotia emailed me with a request. Being sufficiently old-fashioned about these things, I decided to phone him to offer a verbal (rather than texted) answer. He said he and a camera operator had just returned from an assignment in downtown Halifax. He said they had just shot video of the demolition of the Discovery Centre. I didn’t immediately get it.

“You’d more likely remember it as the Zellers store,” Dave Irish said. “It’s a building with much history. … I’m hoping to speak to you about Ms. (Ronnie) Egan saving it.”

An emblem of grace and service

Chief Petty Officer Rodine Egan in Halifax during Second World War.
Chief Petty Officer Rodine Egan in Halifax during Second World War.

We met over the Red Maple Leaf. Or, I guess it was actually under it. We had only been her neighbours for a while, when she looked up at the Canadian flag hanging at my front door and took exception to it.

“You’d better take that down,” she said sternly. “It’s against the law for the national emblem to be that tattered.”

Originally resentful that my neighbour should call me out on the physical condition of my flag, I soon learned that my neighbour – Rodine Doris Mary Buckley-Beevers Egan – had every right to demand that I replace the flag. Not just to ensure that I wasn’t charged by the Government of Canada or the Queen herself for disgracing a national symbol, Ronnie felt personally obliged to fix such things. Indeed, I sensed it wasn’t only her nature, but her occupation.

Canadian Enigma connection

IMITATION_GAME_POSTERSeventy years ago, Europeans sensed the end of the Second World War was near. VE Day arrived May 8, 1945. A generation later, historians and moviemakers are still discovering how Victory in Europe was achieved. At Bletchley Park, an estate just two hours from London, England, details of the Allied intelligence victory continue to emerge. Last year, the movie The Imitation Game depicted the secret world of Enigma, Alan Turing and war work at Bletchley.

In the March 2015 edition of Zoomer magazine, read Ted Barris’s account of the Canadian angle on the code-breakers who hastened victory.

Sentinel of a century

Tree cutters arrive to bring down the maple on Balsam Street.

About a week ago, a friend up the street visited my next-door neighbour on a mission. With his pickup truck empty, save for his chainsaw and a can of gas, He began a day-long project dissecting the remains of a piece of history. A maple tree that had stood near the street at the corner of Ronnie Egan’s property for nearly a century had dropped too many dead or dying upper limbs to be safe anymore. So the township decided for the benefit of all concerned that the tree should come down.

“I cried the day they took it down,” Ronnie Egan admitted to me. “It was very sad to see it go.”

Making Remembrance Day instructive

Outside the Southwold community centre, the sign invites participants to the annual Remembrance week service.
Outside the Southwold community centre, the sign invites participants to the annual Remembrance week service.

Just before I delivered a Remembrance talk in the southwestern community of Shedden, Ont., last Sunday morning, I walked along the back wall of the Southwold Township Complex, where I was to speak. There were perhaps 500 people waiting for the township’s annual pre-Remembrance Day observance to begin.

And standing politely along that back wall, so that older citizens – principally veterans and their spouses – could have seats, were about 20 young army and air cadets. I made a point of introducing myself to them and learning who they were before I spoke.

“I’m 18 and in the Elgin Regiment,” one of them announced proudly.

“And why did you offer your part-time service?” I asked.

“I wanted to say something about my generation,” he said.