Veterans, spouses and widows were thanked in Brantford Saturday at the annual Thank-a-Vet luncheon.
Dave Levac, co-chair with Bill Chopp, has been on the luncheon committee for the past 26 years. The Thank-a-Vet committee consists of individual volunteers and members of the 56
Field Artillery Regiment.
“Before that, I think there were five others before the 26, so it’s actually been longer than that,” said Levac. “It was the Dutch Club that put on the first one, and they did it because it was the anniversary of the liberation of Holland. Then it was turned into a luncheon, then we picked it up.”
At one time it was the largest Thank-a-Vet luncheon in Canada, Levac noted.
“We were up to 750 people.”
About 90 veterans and spouses were expected at Assumption College School on Saturday, and about 300 people in total. The catchment area includes Six Nations of the Grand River, Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, Brant County and Brantford.
“The average age of World War II veterans is about 96,” said Levac. “The sad part of this whole thing, it will fade, but our committee has discussed trying to figure out how to engage the new veterans. We’re thinking about a dinner-dance or something else.”
On Saturday, the colour party was piped to the stage where local dignitaries brought greetings, everyone sang O Canada and God Save the King, and luncheon followed.
“Some of the veterans have tables they need to sit at because they’ve been doing it for 26 years. Some have been here every year, others came after their buddies called them saying, ‘You’ve got to see this thing’,” said Levac.
“Some of the veterans won’t come, however, because they think they are not worthy, because they didn’t go overseas. They are so humble they don’t consider themselves a veteran… and we never make the distinction. You sign up, you’re a veteran.”
Some veterans do not want to remember war experiences, he noted, not wanting to burden other people. Others want to swap stories.
“I had a guy tell me, about five years ago, it was the first time he told anybody,” said Levac. “There is nothing good in war, and these guys talk about that. So when you think about that, and the rest of it that they’re carrying, it gets me every time I talk about it.”
Gabriel Fekete, who grew up in Brant County, returned to the Thank-a-Vet luncheon Saturday at the age of 101-and-a-half.
“It’s really good,” said Fekete, who enjoys meeting other veterans. “I’ll be 102 next May.”
Fekete had served during the Second World War, landing in Belgium, then Holland with the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry, “I was in quite a few cities. Then Germany after, and from Germany back to Holland.”
Fekete later owned a tobacco farm in the Norwich area from 1961-2017, and when the farm was sold he moved to Woodstock.