For many, this Saturday will be filled with mixed emotions, from pride to sadness, remembering those lost to war and those who returned, now gone.
For Marion Borrows, who has called Hillcrest her home for a lifetime, it will be the latter — her father, Jack Dudley, was only a teenager when he left to fight in the second World War.
“My dad was actually the longest-living veteran here at the Bellevue Legion, until he passed away three years ago. He was 99,” Marion shares. “He fought in Italy, in Sicily and Rome, and in North Africa.”
Jack, as it turns out, was also part of the contingent that helped to liberate Holland (now the Netherlands) from Nazi occupation in late 1944 and early 1945. More than 7,600 Canadian soldiers lost their lives during the campaign.
Her father, however, was one of the fortunate ones to return home.
“He was shot in combat twice. He almost bled out one of the times,” Marion says. “I believe it happened in Italy.”
Like many soldiers, her father kept many of his experiences inside.
“I really don’t know an awful lot because my dad didn’t really talk about the war until his later years,” she says.
A member of the Seaforth Highlanders out of Calgary, Marion’s dad enlisted in the Canadian military and, after only a few short weeks of training in England, was off to battle.
In 1945, upon his return, Jack began a career in the underground mines, something he did, in one capacity or another, until his retirement.
“He worked in Coleman and McGillivary in a place called B level. He worked in Canmore for a while. And, he was also in Sparwood,” Marion says.
When there wasn’t work in the mines, because of a strike or layoff, he would pick up work on road crews.
“He was a very friendly person,” Marion says. “Everybody liked Jack Dudley.”
“He loved to fish. He lived to fish,” she adds. “His favourite was in the river when he could fly fish.”
Also an avid ice fisherman, he could be found at Beaver and Beauvais lakes during the winter months, but arthritis from his service in the war, Marion believes, caught up with him and limited the amount of fishing he could do.
It was at a dance in Beaver Mines that he met his bride, Cecelia.
“He said it was her red hair that caught his eye and he knew she was the one for him,” Marion recalls.
The two would be later married in the Coleman United Church.
“Times were tough, so they took a bus to Marysville [for their honeymoon], staying at a hotel for one night.”
Jack was father to three daughters — Marion, the oldest, Diane and Colleen — the loves of his life.
While he probably had hoped for a boy, Marion says he settled for a dog.
“He loved dogs. He always said that they were the only son he could produce.”
While war often produces stories of strife and tragedy, Marion says she’d like to remember some of the happier stories her dad shared with the family — of villagers, in Italy, for example, treating soldiers like gold, and another story …
“They would go and collect all the boots of the soldiers that were laid up in the hospital, sell the boots to the locals, because they would get new boots when they returned to combat, buy wine with the money they received for the boots, and have a party.”
“I would imagine, in Italy, there was probably a lot of local vino,” Marion jokes.
Jack passed away peacefully on July 15, 2020.
As Marion’s family remembers, we, too, acknowledge the selfless service of Jack, and of all our heroes, to our country. Lest we forget.
A photo of a young Jack Dudley with his mom, Mary, just prior to leaving for service in the Second World War. He would return to Hillcrest in 1945 to become a miner, marry his sweetheart, Cecelia, and raise three daughters. | Photo courtesy of Marion Borrows