On crosses that bear their name, rank and branch of service, the eternal age of Kelowna’s fallen soldiers is also listed.
Norman Alfred Smith, of the Royal Canadian Air Force’s 424 Squadron, was only 26 years old when he died on Oct. 15, 1944. His plane was shot down over Denmark.
A photo of Smith was attached to the white cross with his name on it, one of 242 such memorials set up near the cenotaph in City Park.
“The names on the cenotaph before us, and on the Field of Crosses, is a stark reminder of the brevity of life and the cost of conviction,” Kelowna Legion president Jim White said during the annual Remembrance Day service.
Several thousand people attended the service, held in crisp but bright weather. Rev. Dick Fletcher, 94, said it seems to him that the crowds for Remembrance Day grow larger every year.
“And I thank God for that,” Fletcher said.
Only those who arrived well before the beginning of the service had any chance of getting a spot where they could see the events in Cenotaph Square. Many others were too far back in the crowd to watch the service, but some said it was still important to be there anyway.
“You can hear the music and the speeches, and the sound of the trumpet and the bagpipes carries very well,” said Iona Taylor, 61. “The atmosphere, the reverence, that’s what makes the day special.”
From similarly back in the crowd, Frank Ecklund, 72, said he’d attended about 15 of the past 20 services in City Park on Nov. 11.
“It’s great to see such a good big crowd turn out again,” said Ecklund. “It shows that, even though the war is a long time ago, people still understand and appreciate the sacrifice people made.”
In the past 100 years, almost two million Canadians have served in the military. About 117,000 were killed or died in service.
This year marks the centennial of the very first Armistice Day, held on the one-year anniversary of the treaty that ended the First World War.
The last Canadian to die in that conflict, those attending the City Park service heard, was Pte. George Price, from Nova Scotia. He was killed by a German sniper near the Belgian town of Mons at 10:58 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918, two minutes before the ceasefire was to come into effect.
When he died, like Kelowna’s Norman Smith, Price was 26 years old.