WW I-era chair built by Canadian soldiers returns to community where it was assembled
Canadian soldier returns chair in official ceremony Saturday after it was a family staple for decades
A chair built by Canadian soldiers more than 100 years ago in England for a family that opened their doors to them during the First World War is home after years of travelling the world.
This weekend, Canadian soldier Charles King is in the U.K. for a special ceremony to officially present the chair back to the community where it was built after it spent decades in his family.
The chair has been around a lot since its humble beginnings as a gift more than a century ago.
Engravings on the English oak chair say it was made by members of the Canadian Forestry Corps, a branch of the Canadian Army that cut and prepared wood, and was presented to Mrs. H. St. Maur of Stover Park, England in 1917.
King says his mother, Geneva, bought the chair in 1968 in Kenya after the family that originally owned it moved to the country.
"My father was working there in the education department, and my mom actually purchased the chair at an estate sale," King told CBC Toronto. "She knew it was built by Canadian soldiers, and she was buying it no matter what."
Around the world
The chair moved along with the family to Frobisher Bay, which is now Iqaluit, when his father became a high school teacher in the area.
From there, the Kings moved to Prince Edward Island, Ontario and New Brunswick, with the chair tagging along.
King grew up with the family staple for decades, but he says when he was younger, he didn't understand its significance.
There's a lot of work and gratitude for the support of England.- Canadian soldier Charles King
"I can remember this chair being in the living room, and we were never allowed to sit in the chair, and I'm like 'Why can't we sit in this bloody chair?'" he recalled.
It was only when he became a soldier himself that he says what it truly meant dawned on him.
"There's a lot of work and gratitude for the support of England giving support for the Canadian soldiers," he added. "After my mom passed away, it means even more to me now."
But today, the chair is back where it was built: Stover Park, England.
Geneva died in December but was working on getting the chair back to the U.K. in her final days. It was something King was aware of.
"Somehow the people from England contacted my mother," King said. "We both agreed that the chair should be back in England where it belongs."
There were efforts to find the family of H. St. Maurs who the chair was made out to, but they were unsuccessful.
"There's no living relatives that live in the community," King said. "The last that they knew anything about the family members, [they] were all in Kenya, and they couldn't reach out to any members that were living in Kenya."
So the Kings did the next best thing: They decided to give it back to the community.
When his mother was hospitalized in November, he went to spend a week with her in December to say goodbye, and the chair came up.
"I made a promise to her that I'm going to return the chair to the proper place where it should be," he said.
He delivered on that promise and now the chair's journey to at least three continents over the course of a century is something that King finds himself thinking about, including how the chair was built by Canadian soldiers, only to be returned by one more than 100 years later. But the coincidences don't end there.
"When I shipped it to England, the carrier ... [who] delivered it to the Stover Park, his nationality was Kenyan," he said. "It just seems like everything is really [a] coincidence about this chair."