The Royal Canadian Legion Branch 259 is celebrating 60 years and is holding a dinner this weekend to mark the milestone.
The dinner takes place March 30 with doors opening at 5 p.m.
“It feels wonderful; it’s quite an accomplishment because we’ve lost so many Legions, not only in the province, but in the country,” said Charlotte Cederholm, secretary of the branch and deputy zone commander for Thompson-Nicola zone.
“So it’s great to be celebrating 60 years.”
The Legion branch was started in the fall of 1958 when a group of First and Second World War veterans, spearheaded by R. J. (Bob) Franks, and the enthusiastic support of 17 other veterans, decided to form the Legion Branch in Vavenby.
Some of those veterans included George Chesney, R. J. (Bob) Gledhill, Doug Bain, Cless Bayley, Pat Bayley, David Pease, Earl Pease, Ed Cederholm, and George Adams.
They signed up on Jan. 10, 1959 and Pacific Command Vavenby and District Branch 259 was born.
“It’s been changing over the years, I remember when we used to go to dominion conventions, 20 or 25 years ago, it was very specific that poppy trust fund money could only be used for veterans,” said Cederholm.
“Now we can use it for other things and one of the things we couldn’t use it for was grandchildren or great grand children of veterans.”
In the beginning, meetings were held in the local school, which became the community hall and is now a private residence. Later on, meetings were held in a one-room cabin that was on skids to be moved when property was acquired.
Early in 1976 the “big” move came to the flats in Clearwater, to where Double R Pizza is now located. Members of the Branch and the Ladies Auxiliary settled into their new accommodations.
Escalating costs of maintaining the large building and overhead necessitated the sale of the branch building and Legion members were once again on the move.
The Branch was relocated to the empty school in Birch Island where it remained until members were forced to move again when the school district refused to renew the lease. Sadly, while in Birch Island declining membership caused the Ladies Auxiliary to fold in 1992.
For a number of years the branch held its meetings and functions in the Elks Hall until property was obtained in 1998. The branch held its grand opening on Nov. 11, 2002.
The new branch facility set a precedent as it was designated as The Royal Canadian Legion Community Center and is currently being utilized by The Legion, other service organizations and local residents. Today the branch is known only as The Royal Canadian Legion, Vavenby and District Branch 259.
Some of the past presidents have passed on and have left the guardianship of the Branch to those who are left. To name a few Doug Bain, Stan Arksey, Marg Rutsatz, Bill Mason, Bob Gledhill.
“We are fortunate as we also have a number of past presidents to call upon for assistance if needed and some of them are Heather Mcintosh, Norm Labelle, Joe Short, Carol Robertson, Calvin Lutz, and Drake Smith and myself,” said Cederholm.
“Vavenby and District Branch 259 has served its communities well in the past 60 years. We continue to support our veterans, their widows/widowers, local charities, veterans programs and Cadet Corps. At times it has not been easy, at times we wondered how we could keep going, but our members found a way and we kept the wolf away from the door.”
Tickets for the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 259 60th Anniversary Dinner are available at the Legion Hall Friday evening, Home Hardware and Mystic Dreams. For more information call Cederholme at 250-676-9592, Calvin Lutz at 250-674-7399 or Harry James at 250-674-7296.