Al Schmidt at the cenotaph in Lions Park in Kelowna with the new plaque that includes information about Private James Eastwood.—Image: contributed

One veteran’s quest to honour another

Missing information on Kelowna-area cenotaph finally included on memorial

After two years of perseverance, a local veteran will honour a comrade-in-arms he never even met.

Al Schmidt, a veteran now living in Kelowna, was visiting the Cenotaph in Lions Park in Rutland in 2015 when a soldier’s name—Private James Eastwood—caught his eye.

While the name wasn’t familiar, it was how it was listed that struck Schmidt as odd. The name had no listed battalion, dates, or information about where he died, just his name.

Schmidt set out to find some answers. He chronicled his endeavors to hunt down this information, determined to discover even the slightest information about why this information wasn’t on the Cenotaph. Why was there was no information listed about this soldier? Where did he live? What war did he serve in?

The granite cenotaph at Rutland Lions Park was updated in 2009 with bronze markers in order to help preserve the names and information of those remembered. However, no one involved with the renovation knew why Private Eastwood’s information was not included.

After a year and a half of searching and documenting and arriving at numerous dead ends, Schmidt wrote to the City of Kelowna, and his inquiry eventually landed with the city’s Parks Services department.

This is where the search changed gears. Cemetery manager David Gatzke started working with Schmidt and the pair turned their attention to finding out the missing information and making sure it was included.

“There was something truly inspiring about the effort that Al Schmidt put in to recognize this soldier, someone he never even knew,” said Gatzke. “When he walked in to my office carrying a two-inch folder filled with documentation of his attempts at finding out why the information was missing for this soldier, you could tell there was a connection that only a veteran could fully understand.”

Working closely with the Royal Canadian Legion, the Army, Navy and Air Force Veterans Association, Veteran Affairs Canada and the Okanagan Military Museum, Gatzke and Schmidt backtracked to find records from when the plaques went up for the new cenotaph in 2009, as well as details of Eastwood’s service. They discovered the original cenotaph that sat by the old school in Rutland never had Eastwood’s information to begin with.

Eastwood as a Kelowna resident and millwright who was 33 when he enlisted for overseas service in 1914. He served primarily with the 15th Battalion in France and was killed in action at Vimy Ridge on April 9, 1917. He is buried at the Nine Elms Military Cemetery in Vimy, France.

“Once we had the information and started to focus on making sure all the details where included, everyone jumped on board,” said Gatzke. “We ordered the marker. Jim McCaffery, president of the Kelowna legion, made a petition to the his organization’s Poppy Fund to purchase the new bronze marker, and Parks Services took care of the installation.”

Even now it’s still unknown exactly why the original cenotaph was missing Eastwood’s details. But what is most important is that his service is commemorated there now, in time for Remembrance Day – 100 years after Vimy Ridge.

And it was all thanks to the enduring efforts of a fellow soldier.

Just Posted

Central Okanagan firefighters are battling wildfires across B.C.

Lake Country, Kelowna and Peachland crews are assisting the BC Wildfire Service

Oktopus to headline Music in the Park

The West Kelowna night of music will happen once again this Friday

Long-awaited John Hindle Drive in Kelowna just weeks away from completion

Ministry of Transportation says it plans to have the road open before the start of the school year

Blasting begins at Beachview Drive in West Kelowna

Blasting begins as part of residential development

Updated: RCMP no longer suspect death of Vernon woman is suspicious

West Kelowna RCMP continue to investigate the woman’s sudden death

A first-hand look at hazards facing scooter users

A Salmon Arm reporter tags along on a mobility scooter tour of the city to learn about safety hazards

Man found not guilty in 2011 drug-related shooting in Shuswap

Judge rules Jeremy Davis couldn’t foresee his companion would kill 24-year-old Nick Larsen.

Police chiefs call for stricter controls on pill presses to fight opioids

Canada’s police chiefs are urging Ottawa to beef up its fight against the opioid scourge by closely vetting people who import pill presses

Hot, dry conditions forces drought rating to highest level on Vancouver Island

The province says Vancouver Island is under Stage 4 drought conditions

Victoria police say explicit calls continue to target women

Over 50 reports of unwanted, sexually explicit calls have come in

Parks Canada has ‘general concept’ in mind for South Okanagan-Similkameen

Minister Catherine McKenna will be providing a further update to representatives in Penticton Friday, August 17

‘It’s like a party in your mouth’

B.C. creator’s Milkshake Burger makes its debut at the PNE

Get involved in the Great Canadian Bumble Bee Count

Environmental organization develops app to help with the nationwide count

Most Read