With construction soon set to begin on the Legion Veterans Village at the Whalley Legion property, it will be the last year the Remembrance Day ceremony and parade will take place there.
“We would like to invite the public to help us commemorate and honour our fallen soldiers,” said Tony Moore, President of the Whalley Legion Branch 229.
The Surrey Fire Fighters Pipe and Drum band will be part of this year’s parade for the first time.
The Whalley Legion’s Junior Band will also participate, as will volunteers from the Surrey Crime Prevention Society and many other groups, with complimentary refreshments served at the Legion.
“We’ve been serving the community for the last 71 years and we are excited to look ahead to new beginnings and new services we will be offering to veterans and first responders with our new Legion Veterans Village,” Moore added.
Where will future ceremonies be held?
“We’ve talked about maybe using City Hall Plaza, or maybe Holland Park,” Moore replied. “Or put the cenotaph on a trailer and bring it to the corner of 108th (Avenue). But we’ll definitely have a parade.
“We’ll always hold one.”
The Whalley Legion was founded in 1947 when about 40 veterans gathered to start a local branch of the Canadian Legion in the Whalley area. One of the first organizations in Whalley’s Corner, next to the Ladies Community Guild, the originating members held their first meetings in local church basements and members’ garages.
In 1951, the first Remembrance Service was held on the grounds of the Grosvenor Road School, and a cenotaph built nearby. The existing location was built in 1960 after unprecedented growth in the area through fundraising, donated materials and labour.
Today, the Whalley Legion gives away nearly $100,000 a year from poppy sales and other initiatives.
“We give it all back to the community,” said Moore. “Kinsmen, schools, the hospital, our cadets, it’s a very valuable part of the City Centre of Surrey.”
The Whalley Legion is currently exploring several options for its temporary operating location, while the Veterans Village is under construction. Their Cadet activities will be supported in temporary locations during construction.
“We’re in negotiations,” said Moore, noting the legion has been considering a former Japanese restaurant in the area.
“We’re also looking to maybe have a trailer in there or something for the cadets,” he said, which are currently housed in a building also on the Legion’s property.
The Legion Veterans Village has passed fourth reading, with the City of Surrey approving the rezoning and subdivision plan at the Oct. 1 council meeting.
The next steps are for the Lark Group, the developer of the LVV, to put a number of approvals in place with the city and the land titles office to complete and execute the subdivision plan.
Demolition of the existing Whalley Legion and ground-breaking is expected to commence in spring 2019, with completion slated for the winter of 2021-22.
The $66 million Legion Veterans Village was initiated by the Royal Canadian Legion BC/Yukon Command (BC/Yukon Command), the Whalley Legion Branch 229, and the Lark Group.
It will be Canada’s first Centre of Excellence for veterans and first responders that focuses on post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and mental health. It will also be an “Innovation Centre for Rehabilitation,” offering clinical rehabilitation services, research and the delivery of health care programs, services and trauma counseling for PTSD and mental health, which includes advanced evidence-based services and programming in health, science and engineering, including innovations in robotics, assistive devices and technologies for injured veterans and first responders.
Moore said the project will be a “real game-changer,” not only for veterans, but also for the wider Whalley community.
“We’ve got hundreds of veterans in the Lower Mainland,” said Moore. “We have lots of young veterans, Afghanistan and different services, so there’s a real need for this PTSD clinic.
“Would love to get Prince Harry to come and open it,” Moore added. “He knows about it.”
As for Whalley?
“It’s the oldest part of Surrey, a heritage area,” Moore said. “I think it’ll help get it back to its former glory. You’ve got Tien Sher over there, the Flamingo hotel, and I think in a few years down the road, we’ll be like Davies or Kitsilano. It’ll be the place to live.”
This year’s Remembrance Day ceremony in Whalley will take place on Sunday, Nov. 11 beginning at 10 p.m., at 13525 106th Ave.
Other ceremonies are planned at Veteran’s Square (17710 56A Ave. & 17671 56 Ave.), Crescent Legion (2643 128 St.), Newton Seniors Centre Park (13775 70 Ave.), Port Kells Community Hall (18918 88 Ave.), Surrey Centre Cemetery (16671 Old McLellan Rd.) and White Rock cenotaph (15322 Buena Vista Ave.).