BEYOND THE HEADLINES: A time to remember

Richard Rolke reflects on the impact war had on his family

I can’t imagine what my great-grandparents went through.

Like many families during the First World War, Samuel and Maria Ryder got a knock at the door. A telegraph bluntly stated their 22-year-old son Sam had died Nov. 13, 1916 at the Somme.

Not only would they never bask in his boyish smile again, they wouldn’t even have a chance for a final farewell or to bury him in the Kelowna cemetery. He would forever remain on French soil.

Samuel and Maria  would have still been grieving the loss of Sam, when there was another knock at the door.

April 9, 1917 has gone down in history as the first day of Vimy Ridge, the battle that thrust Canada into the family of nations. However, it was also the day that ensured their 21-year-old son Bert would never return to the Okanagan. He became another statistic for the military.

Life obviously moved on for Samuel and Maria as they had eight other kids to worry about, including my grandpa Jack. But it’s unlikely things were ever the same again. Children are supposed to outlive their parents and when the reverse occurs, the heart is wounded.

You likely can’t help but think of what could have been — establishing careers, walking down the aisle, raising children. All of those milestones parents hope to celebrate with their children are stripped away. Closure doesn’t exist.

But of course war brings uncertainty and that was once again the case during the Second World War when my grandpa Dick Rolke, after training at the Vernon Army Camp, headed overseas. Left behind was his still relatively new bride Elsie, who would soon be pregnant with my dad.

Letters were written but there was always a chance that one day they would stop. And stop they did for a period as Dick struggled with diphtheria.

What went through Elsie’s mind? Obviously she wondered what had happened to him, but she also likely considered the prospect of what the future would hold if he didn’t return. Would she be able to raise their son alone?

Eventually Dick did return to the Okanagan but by that time, my dad was three-years-old and the shift from a strict military structure to home life must have been an abrupt adjustment.

As a child, I would join Dick as he made the  rounds leading up to Nov. 11. He ensured businesses and groups had their wreaths and there was a plentiful supply of poppies.

It was just him and I and the bond that we had always shared strengthened further.

In fact, Remembrance Day became our day. We would meet up early and then attend the ceremony together. It was a chance for him to reminisce, even when long-ago memories brought tears to the surface. That tradition continued even after I left home and had to drive an hour to be with him.

Our last Remembrance Day was in 1998. Just a few weeks later he was gone.

As I stand with my family today at the Coldstream cenotaph, I will think of all of those who have put their lives on the line, from the trenches of Europe to the streets of Kandahar.

But most of all, I will take time to remember Bert and Sam, Samuel and Maria, and Dick and Elsie. Lest we forget.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(Black Press file photo)
Lumby curling club needs $17K to continue season amid COVID-19

The village agreed to provide half of the requested funds, RDNO may provide the other half

Les Louis collaborated with Clint George to create the Pelmewash Parkway Indigenous sculptures in Lake Country. (Video still)
First Indigenous territory recognition made in Lake Country

Council makes historic move after Syilx artists create parkway sculptures

Thirty-four unionized workers represented by MoveUp started rotating job action at VantageOne Credit Union's two Vernon locations Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. Workers are calling for basic job protection and fair security. (Jennifer Smith - Vernon Morning Star)
VantageOne staff urged to take tentative deal in Vernon

It’s been more than one month since union workers went on strike

A part-time staff member at Vernon’s Chartwell Carrington Place Retirement Residence has tested positive for COVID-19, the seniors home’s general manager said Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. (Chartwell photo)
COVID-19 case confirmed at Vernon seniors home

An employee at Carrington Place has tested positive; Interior Health is not declaring an outbreak

Vernon's Noric House long-term care facility is dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Vernon COVID-19 care home deaths now up to 13

Another member of Noric House has passed

Businesses continue to struggle under COVID-19 restrictions as the pandemic reaches the one-year mark. (B.C. government)
Another 564 COVID-19 cases, mass vaccine plan coming Friday

15 more deaths, community cluster declared in Williams Lake

Police are searching for an alleged sex offender, Nicole Edwards, who they say has not returned to her Vancouver halfway house. (Police handout)
Police hunt for woman charged in ‘horrific’ assault who failed to return to Surrey halfway house

Call 911 immediately if you see alleged sex offender Nicole Edwards, police say

A screenshot from a local Instagram account video. The account appeared to be frequented by Mission students, and showed violent videos of students assaulting and bullying other students.
Parents, former students describe ‘culture of bullying’ in B.C. school district

Nearly two dozen voices come forward speaking of abuse haunting the hallways in Mission, B.C.

Vaccine rollout is focused on health care workers first, especially those dealing with long-term care facilities. (Nathan Denette - Canadian Press)
General public shouldn’t expect vaccines until fall: Interior Health South Okanagan Similkameen

Interior Health focused on vaccinating long-term and first-line care workers

Joe Biden, then the U.S. vice-president, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau take their seats at the start of the First Ministers and National Indigenous Leaders meeting in Ottawa, Friday, Dec. 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau, Biden to talk today as death of Keystone XL reverberates in Canada

President Joe Biden opposed the Keystone XL expansion as vice-president under Barack Obama

Prince Edward Island’s provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, Friday July 3, 2020. A lozenge plant in Prince Edward Island has laid off 30 workers, citing an “almost non-existent” cold and cough season amid COVID-19 restrictions. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
‘Almost non-existent’ cold and cough season: P.E.I. lozenge plant lays off 30 workers

The apparent drop in winter colds across the country seems to have weakened demand for medicine and natural remedies

Authorities have confirmed a case of COVID-19 within a school in Kelowna. Someone within the Rutland Elementary School community has tested positive. (Aman Parhar/Omineca Express/FILE)
Authorities confirm COVID-19 exposure in Central Okanagan school

Interior Health (IH) states they will be following up with anyone potentially exposed

Homeless man lying on the bench. (File photo)
Temporary emergency shelter opens in Central Okanagan

The shelter, located at the former location of Tree Brewing, will offer 38 beds

Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran said the city won’t look at changing its policy regarding automatic cost of living pay bumps for himself and city councillors, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. (File)
Kelowna won’t look at nixing automatic pay raises for council, mayor

Mayor Colin Basran said the raise is minuscule, won’t look at changing policy amid residents’ COVID struggles

Most Read