C.W. Canfield is about as alive as anyone can be at 93 years old.
“Quatrevingt-treize!” He said with a wide grin, as if waiting for you to catch on.
He’s a military man, from a military family and proud of it. He signed up in 1943 when he was just 19 years old. He went back in 1949 and stayed until 1963.
More than a handful of medals hang neatly on his jacket. He keeps his father’s medals underneath the glass of a picture frame. If you ask him, he’ll tell you what each one means and what they’re made of.
His father’s name was J.W. Canfield. A career military man himself, J.W. served in the First World War and remained in the military well beyond the Second.
“They called them the happy bunch,” C.W. said, gripping a picture of solemn soldiers somewhere overseas in 1919. His father is second from the left.
The pictures help him remember and he’s got a lot of pictures. Each one of them has a story, sometimes two.
“You recognize the chief, John Diefenbaker?” C.W. points to a photo of his father standing next to the former prime minister. Former Alberta premier Ernest Manning is there too.
If you let him, C.W. would talk all day. We should probably let him, because he’s full of stories and short on time to tell them.
Recently though, C.W. found something else he likes talking about in November.
No Stone Left Alone. It’s an Edmonton-based program that aims to remember every soldier who has paid the ultimate sacrifice for Canada. School children across the country place a poppy on every headstone in the week leading up to Remembrance Day. Earlier this year, it was done in Poland too.
“They see these veterans’ graves when they go to cemeteries and it doesn’t resonate with them at all, but this way it does,” C.W. said. “These veterans have got to be remembered and this is how they’re doing it and I think they’re doing a tremendous job.”
No one is overlooked. That’s the goal.
“He was 22 years and three months, I believe,” C.W. said, holding a picture that may be most important to him. “The Canadian government forgot about him.”
G.R. Canfield was C.W.’s older brother by about three years. He was flying with the Royal Air Force in North and West Africa in the Second World War. In 1944, his plane went down in Portugal. He’s one of three Canadians buried in a British cemetery in Lisbon.
“Apparently he had a number of friends in Portugal and they were all at the grave site,” C.W. said.
Since he was flying with the British, G.R.’s records were lost or overlooked in Canada.
Ten years after his brother died, C.W. found his brother’s grave. He drove there from Paris with his wife. He brought flowers. She took a picture.
“If they don’t come back, that’s it, you’ve got to remember them because they’ve made a lot of sacrifices.”
That’s why every November he wears his medals, he brings out his pictures and he tells his stories. One day his pictures and his medals will fall silent, but because of No Stone Left Alone, he’s sure his stories never will.