As the 100-year anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge approaches, 83-year-old Athabasca resident Alice Eherer treasures a precious 49-year-old photograph containing a local connection to the historic event.
In the picture, published in the local Athabasca newspaper on Nov 26, 1968, several men share a meal around a table at the Union Hotel on Remembrance Day. The photo’s caption says the banquet was organized by the Athabasca Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion to honour veterans who served during the First World War. Eherer’s father, Lidden Buchanan, sits second from the left.
Just a few weeks before the photo was taken, Eherer’s husband Joseph Eherer Jr. passed away in a farming accident. Buchanan, who fought at Vimy Ridge, was in the photo as he had travelled to Athabasca with Eherer’s mother, Nancy, to attend the funeral.
“We were milking 50 cows at the time,” Eherer said. “So both mum and dad came and stayed with me and my children.”
Father William O’Farrell, a family friend and local priest who was conducting the funeral, was also the chaplain of the Athabasca Legion. Eherer said O’Farrell told Frank Appleby, then the Legion president, that there was a veteran who fought at Vimy Ridge in town.
Eherer recounted that Appleby immediately called her house to say he would come and take her father to the Legion banquet.
“He said they were having a banquet to honour the veterans,” Eherer said. “My father really enjoyed himself.”
Following the banquet, Buchanan stayed in Athabasca to help Eherer with the farm and her three children before leaving to visit Eherer’s other siblings in Islay.
Eherer described her father as a quiet, easygoing man who loved his family and farming. She said he never spoke much about his experience during the war, limiting what he told them to only the gentlest anecdotes.
“I think he protected us kids from lots of that stuff,” she said.
Buchanan passed away 11 years later in 1979 at the age at the age of 81. Eherer said it is nice to remember him and what he and so many others did.
“I think we owe it to him and those people who went to that hell over there to remember,” she said. “The people in those times did so much.”