Letters in love and war reveal the most about the human condition according to Ken Meister as he unearths the story of his great-uncle.
Private John Leopold Parry, known as “Jack,” was only 17 when he joined the Canadian Army during the First World War.
“Parry served with the British Expeditionary Force stationed in France. To read his stories of being at the frontlines in the trenches of France, and the perspective he had on life and death, has been a good example to me,” said Meister.
The tragic letters trace the theme of supreme service and sacrifice.
“He writes home to his family about sacrifice, about wanting to die as a man, about seeing people not fear death but rather embrace it as they fought and did their duty.”
Meister holds the final, heart-rending collection of Jack’s letters to his beloved younger sister, Kitty.
Jack writes: “To see men die without any fear of death, and to suffer awful pain with a smile, I cannot quite understand it all. I was always of the impression that people were afraid to die.
But the only fear that possesses most of the boys is that they may fail to do their duty.”
Jack was killed in action on June 6, 1916, just four days after Kitty married Frank Roberts.
His body was never found.
“As a family we visited the site where he was last stationed and saw his name on the Menin Gate in Belgium,” noted Meister.
Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing is dedicated to the British and Commonwealth soldiers killed in the war and their bodies never recovered.
“While we were staying at a bed and breakfast in that area, we were looking through their library and noticed a book that talked about the history of his battalion, so we were able to trace back where they were and what they were doing on the day he passed away,” explained Meister.
“But, being a young soldier, he could have been a runner or had some duties for another unit that day because we don’t know exactly where he passed away as his body was never found.”
Serving for their country has been passed down through the generations as Meister and his wife Jenny both served in the military.
The Meister family are organizing Remembrance Day activities at Holman Homestead, their ice cream parlour located at 286 Fitzroy St. in Summerside, on Friday, Nov. 10.
The events will take place around the backyard campfire (weather dependent) from 6 p.m.
“We will read some letters from Uncle Jack, and we encourage people to bring and share their own stories of soldiers that they know from past battles in the First and Second World Wars, the Korean conflicts, as well as share their thoughts.”
On Remembrance Day, Nov. 11, there will be an ice cream giveaway at the Holman Homestead to veterans, those in active service, and members of the public service that include police, fire, and ambulance.
Members are encouraged to dress in uniform or bring some identification.
War stories around the campfire will continue that evening from 6 to 9 p.m.
“This day is to share more stories of modern conflict. I was going to share my experiences in the Air Force and the challenges we have in modern conflict,” said Meister. “And we encourage the public, veterans, and those in active service to attend and share their stories.”