Nfld. & Labrador

Surviving Second World War veterans honoured with a night out in St. John's

There are only 80 Second World War veterans left in Newfoundland and Labrador, according to the Royal Canadian Legion, but 12 were honoured in St. John's on Friday night.

'We're trying to give them back something,' says legion official as 12 vets eat lobster, ride vintage cars

A young boy waves to 99-year-old Second World War veteran Ida Leonard as she takes part in a parade of antique cars to the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 56 in St. John's on Friday night. (Paul Daly/The Canadian Press)

There are only 80 Second World War veterans left in Newfoundland and Labrador, according to the Royal Canadian Legion, and 12 of them were honoured in St. John's on Friday night.

It was an evening that started with a motorcade that left from the Caribou Memorial Veterans Pavilion on the opposite side of Quidi Vidi Lake, ending at Branch 56 in the Pleasantville neighbourhood of St. John's. 

Dozens of people lined the roadway, applauding and yelling "thank you" as each car rolled by.

Vehicles were provided by the Newfoundland Antique and Classic Car Club to get each veteran to the venue in style. They were flanked by members of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary and the Commandos Canada Motorcycle Club as their escorts. 

Second World War veteran Rod Deon celebrated his 100th birthday as he took part in a parade of antique cars in St. John's on Friday night. The event was organized to pay tribute to surviving veterans of the Second World War. (Paul Daly/The Canadian Press)

"They all feel very grateful. We're very happy that the veterans have made themselves known to us through Operation Roll Call," Jenn Deon, secretary for Royal Canadian Legion Branch 56, told CBC News. 

"You don't know how many veterans are out there until you put a call out. We actually had about 25 veterans identify themselves to us, and only about half of them are feeling up to attending."

Members of the public waited in a cool rain to watch a parade of antique cars to the Royal Canadian Legion's Branch 56 in St. John's on Friday evening. (Paul Daly/The Canadian Press)

Once inside the legion, the guests of honour were treated to a lobster and steak dinner, with entertainment provided by Broadway's Petrina Bromley, pianist Bill Brennan and the Royal Newfoundland Regiment Band Combo.

The 12 veterans on the parade ranged in age from 95 to 102 years old.

The group was made up of both men and women who between them have served in all three branches of military service: army, navy and air force.

WATCH: Scenes from St. John's, as WW II vets are honoured with a unique tribute: 

Surviving WW II vets in St. John's treated to motorcade and feast

5 months ago
Duration 2:00
Videographer Chelsea Jacobs captured scenes from a memorable evening put together for Second World War veterans 2:00

The event comes a day after Memorial Day in Newfoundland and Labrador, a day of remembrance for those who fought and died in France during the First World War. 

For Deon the evening was extra special.

Her father, Rod Deon, was among the veterans being honoured Friday night, but he also turned 100 years old. Rod Deon is a veteran of the Royal Canadian Navy and was part of the D-Day landings in 1944.

"He's sort of the inspiration for this event for me. It's important to remember his sacrifice and those like him," Deon said. 

Jenn Deon, organizer of the Night at the USO gala at the Royal Canadian Legion in St. John's, holds an umbrella for Second World War veteran Sarah Hillier, 98, escorted by Ted Hillier. (Paul Daly/The Canadian Press)

For honour

Presentations to the veterans in attendance were made by the Quilts of Valour and Crow's Nest organizations.

Leonard Stoyles, sergeant-at-arms for Branch 56, said the day was about honouring the remaining Second World War veterans. 

Royal Navy veteran William Saunders, 99, wipes away tears during a gala to honour the remaining Second World War veterans. (Paul Daly/The Canadian Press)

"We don't have too many veterans left, so we're trying to make the best of it," he said. 

"Without the veterans nobody would be here. They went to war and fought for everybody, and now we're trying to give them back something out of respect for what they've done for us."

Friday's guest list also included Lt.-Gov. Judy Foote, federal Natural Resources Minister Seamus O'Regan, MP Jack Harris, Environment Minister Bernard Davis, St. John's Mayor Danny Breen and Nathan Lehr, president of the Royal Canadian Legion, Newfoundland and Labrador Provincial Command. 

Petrina Bromley, one of the stars of the Broadway musical Come From Away, sings Friday night in St. John's at a gala to honour Second World War veterans in Newfoundland and Labnrador. (Paul Daly/The Canadian Press)

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Henrike Wilhelm and Chelsea Jacobs

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