A ceremony held in honour of Harriet's father which included the Royal Canadian Legion - Branch 005

Posted by Ivan Guerassimov on April 25, 2018 in Seniors

Harriet was born in Westpoint, Prince Edward Island in 1941. At the time, her father had enlisted and was stationed overseas in Bienen, Germany. During WWII, Harriet’s father, Edison Alexander Smith, was a Sergeant in the Canadian Army’s infantry regiment known as the North Nova Scotia Highlanders. As fate would have it, he never returned home. Sergeant Edison Alexander Smith was killed in battle crossing the Rhine in Holland on March 25, 1945. As such, Harriet never met her father, “When you grow up without knowing your father, you grab at every little bit that’s left.”

Harriet has searched out any mention of her father in books dedicated to the North Novas. “Apparently he was quite the hero,” she said. Sergeant Edison Alexander Smith tried to help Major Dickson and got shot, fell on him and in doing so saved his (Major Dickson) life when a mortar shell fell near them. Harriet’s father was buried in Groesbeek, now home to a Canadian Cemetery.

Harriet has wanted to visit her father’s grave all of her life, but could never afford the trip to Holland. In their small town on Prince Edward Island, Harriet and her brother were the only children without a father, and often felt left out as they watched their friends grow with the support of both of their parents. This lack, she says, has been the single most difficult thing in her life. Harriet didn’t realize just how much she was missing until she had children of her own and saw them with their father, “I miss what I didn’t have, but I couldn’t let it ruin my life.”

On September 15th, 2017, Harriet’s lifelong wish to visit her father’s grave came true. Harriet was accompanied by her husband, Keith Jenereaux and Alice van Bekkum, President of the local Dutch nonprofit Faces to Graves, which honors and preserves the legacy of Canadian WWII service members. Following the journey to the Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery, Harriet traveled to Bienen, Germany on September 19th to visit a monument dedicated to the North Nova Scotia Highlanders and to spend time at the exact location that her father lost his life.

Today Harriet has a collection of photos of her father and his battalion that she treasures more than anything. After this trip, she looks at those photos in a new light. “I’ve always, always, always known in my heart that he was a hero…when I look at his picture on the wall now, it’s not with an empty heart, it’s with a heart that’s overflowing with love and gratitude.”

Thanks to our partnership with Wish of a Lifetime Canada, for allowing us to help Harriet make that journey.