According to Vicky Latour, there will be no special mention of a personal milestone for her on Nov. 11 as she officiates her final Remembrance Day ceremony as padre of Branch 250 of the Royal Canadian Legion.
“Definitely not,” she said. “This is about the veterans and those who have gone.”
In fact, it took some convincing before Latour even agreed to talk to The Hub about the coming end of her 16-year run as padre, and her final Remembrance Day ceremony in that role.
“It’s a privilege and an honour,” she said of officiating at the annual ceremony.
The 79-year-old said it was a difficult decision to retire as padre.
“But I’m getting a bit tired,” she explained.
“I’m retiring as padre probably at the end of January,” she added, noting she is turning 80 next month.
Remembrance Day has always been one of the special services she officiated as padre.
That’s because Latour lived under Nazi bombs and rockets while growing up in her native England.
She was not quite four years old when the Second World War started in 1939 and nearly 10 when it ended in 1945.
“So the war for me and Remembrance Day for me, it’s always been there,” she said. “It’s always been a known date and the reason has pretty well been always in my head.”
Plus, many in her family served in the military to defend England – her father, three uncles and many cousins. Her father, who was a member of the Royal Air Force, was even posted to Canada for two years during the war.
Latour and her mother spent the war in Greater London, and she recalled the bombing there was terrible.
Their home was even damaged by a bomb when it landed half a block away. It was a so-called buzz bomb, also known as a V-1 flying bomb.
She and other people in London recognized a buzz bomb by its distinctive sound, which would cease as the motor stopped and the bomb started to glide.
“You knew it was coming down,” she said.
That was not her only harrowing childhood memory of wartime London.
“I remember walking past a crater with my mother with an unexploded bomb in the middle of the road,” Latour said.
Plus, she can remember watching planes in dogfights above London.
Latour said, like many other people who lived through such experiences, she is “haunted” by memories of war.
“To this day, a siren will still upset me, and it’s long years ago,” she said.
But while she has memories of war, she also recalls Remembrance Day from that same time.
“Remembrance Day was always part of my life as a child. I can remember poppies,” she said, noting they were larger than today’s poppies and made of a silk-like material.
And Remembrance Day continues to hold a special significance for her.
“Not only the awful memory of so many deaths, the toll, not just of those who died but for those who were wounded or traumatized in any manner,” she said. “But it is also for the families, and not just the families of veterans but the people. I mean what we endured in Britain was bad enough. Can you imagine what it was like in the countries that were invaded?”
Those are the memories that Latour takes into officiating her last Remembrance Day ceremony for the Legion in Hay River.
She said she is not an ordained minister but was a layperson at St. Andrew’s Anglican Church for many years when she was approached to become Legion padre, who can perform a number of ceremonies along with the one for Remembrance Day.
While she said she was asked to become a padre, Latour added, “I presume I was called to it.”