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Remembering Remembrance Day

Richard Lautens, Staff Photographer

Earlier this week I had the privilege of visiting the Veterans Residence at Sunnybrook Hospital here in Toronto.  I was sent to make some pictures of several WW2 veterans who will be featured in an article on Saturday in The Star.

It was amazing to see some of the folks-all in their late 80s in such a well-run facility.  We do enough stories about poor conditions in nursing homes and we all know that these Vets deserve the best.

This reminded me of a time back in 2004 when reporter Joe Hall and I tracked down the 8 remaining Canadian WW1 veterans. The youngest of this crowd was 105 at the time and he had to lie about his age to get into the war.

We traveled from New Brunswick to Washington State to photograph them all and talk to them. The one that sticks out in my mind was John Babcock.

Babcock is now the only Canadian WW1 vet remaining and is 109 years old. When he dies there will be a state funeral in honour of all those who died in that war. Babcock has said that he doesn’t want all that fuss.

What I remember of taking his photo is that I went into his house that he shared with his wife Dorothy, 29 years his junior.  When I went in I came in close, looked him right in the eye and shouted at him my greeting. 

After we sat down his wife went off to get a piece of pie for all concerned in the kitchen and asked John about what he wanted. I could barely hear her as she had her head in the fridge but John piped up right away. 

I then realized that all my shouting and treating John like he was frail must have been more insulting than useful.  He could hear and see fine and when he jumped up and offered to take us on a car tour of Spokane, Washington where he lived I realized just how far off my assumptions were.

I was glad to hear he is still chugging along and wish him and all the other vets a heap of thanks for what they have done for us all.


RL_veteran_babcock4blog WW1 Veteran John Babcock, then 105, with his wife Dorothy


Richard Lautens/Toronto Star


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Let us always remember those who fought for our country. Let us always remember those who gave their lives and those who are still with us. Let us always be thankful for what we gained from their sacrifices; our freedom.

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