Caledonia Ladies Auxiliary members honoured for many years of service

Caledonia Ladies Auxiliary members honoured for many years of service
CALEDONIA—Pictured (l-r) are the five remaining members of the Caledonia Ladies Auxiliary: Mary Hubert, Lynda Dunn, Margaret Bernhardt, Ruby McWilliams, and Joan Kuzmickas. —Haldimand Press photo by Jillian Zynomirski.

By Mike Renzella

The Haldimand Press

CALEDONIA — During this year’s Remembrance Day activities at Branch 154 of the Royal Canadian Legion, five women were recognized for their years of tireless service to their community. 

All are members of the Caledonia Legion Ladies Auxiliary, and although they often work behind the scenes, they are responsible for a lifetime’s worth of memories for those who have utilized the legion hall over the years.

Current member and honouree Mary Hubert is celebrating 50 years with the Ladies Auxiliary. She remembers spending almost all of her time at or around the hall throughout her younger years. 

“We couldn’t join until we were 19,” she recalled. 

She added, “I have a twin sister, Margaret, who joined at the same time. My mom was a member and my dad was a Second World War vet with the Argyles in Sutherland.”

Once Mary was finally able to join in 1971, there were about 40 women amongst the ranks of the auxiliary. 

“Over the years, it was the same group of ladies. We were family,” she said. “We helped each other and we were very close.” 

Mary recalled her early years as a member: “Our hall wasn’t very big then. We used to wait on tables, and when the fair was on the auxiliary would run a dining hall. We would work in the hall to get our spending money for the fair.” 

Over the years, the ladies of the auxiliary would cater countless events, including weddings, banquets, birthday parties, funeral luncheons, and so much more.

“In our heyday, we’d be up there Friday night and Saturday night. It was nothing to see 130 to 140 people at a banquet,” she explained. “One year we blew up a haggis in one of the ovens. What a stink that was!”

Every year on Remembrance Day the auxiliary would issue a cheque to the legion based on their fundraising efforts throughout the year, with Mary saying that sometimes that check would be as high as $10,000 a year.

As the years went by, the group’s membership dwindled: “Last year we lost three members, one to COVID, one sudden stroke, and the other had multiple things wrong with her. That was kind of the nucleus of the auxiliary.”

What was once a group of women 40 strong is now down to five remaining members. Four of them were given service pins this year as part of the branch’s Remembrance Day events. The members being recognized are:

  • Comrade Lynda Dunn for 50 years of service. Lynda was president of the auxiliary for 25 years. Other titles she has held include vice president, treasurer, and sports officer.
  • Comrade Mary Hubert for 50 years of service. Mary was the group’s secretary for 30 years and also served as president for five years.
  • Comrade Margaret Bernhardt for 50 years of service. Margaret served as a Sergeant at Arms for 12 years, treasurer for five, and as executive for four.
  • Comrade Joan Kuzmickas for five years of service. Joan has spent four of her five years as the group’s executive.

Although she did not receive a pin, the groups fifth remaining member, Ruby McWilliams, was also honoured for her 46 years of service. In total, the five ladies have accumulated a massive 201 years of service to their community.

One thing Hubert remembers with fondness are the Christmas dinners for veterans held at the hall over the years: “We would do it up special, we would give them a full turkey dinner.”

Hubert said that as the years went on and the group grew smaller, their catering efforts began to scale back a lot, with the pandemic essentially grinding them to a complete halt. 

“Just having five members, you can’t do much,” said Mary, noting that Ruby is in her 80s, with Mary and Margaret turning 70 at the end of the month. Despite the challenges presented by the pandemic the group carries on: “It’s just a sense of duty I guess you would call it.”

That sense of duty is an essential part of what makes Haldimand County such a great place to live, where people in the community serve, seeking nothing in return except for the bonds of fellowship that can only truly be shared by those with such a long and storied history together.

“We live to serve,” summed up Mary. “The branch, the veterans, and the community.”

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