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Living relative of First World War veteran found
The Brandon Sun - 12/25/2020
The question of whether there are any living relatives of Charles McConnell has been answered by the discovery of a man in B.C.
It’s a connection the man, John Eastwood of Delta, B.C., was unaware of.
“I think it’s just nice to know our family’s history, so this goes back one generation beyond the generation I was familiar with,” he said by phone last week. “I guess I’m one of the closest living (relatives) in the family — probably the.”
This family tree mystery was sparked last month when Brandon lawyer Warren Barber reached out to the Sun to help publicize his search for a family member of McConnell’s.
Several years ago, he’d discovered a Memorial Cross, also known as a Silver’s Cross for Mothers, which honoured McConnell’s Sept. 16, 1917, death.
The Canadian soldier was killed in action in France, and the medal was given to his mother, Elizabeth McConnell. She was a widow and Charles was her only child.
Barber said that when he rediscovered the medal recently, he figured it was time to get it into the hands of a descendent of the long-dead soldier, as he didn’t feel right about holding on to it.
Staff at the Meighen Haddad LLP offices helped map out the history of both McConnell and his mother, who died on May 26, 1923.
Charles, it turns out, was born in Winnipeg on June 22, 1898, and enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force on March 27, 1916, a few months shy of his 18th birthday.
His enlistment form indicated his “apparent” age as being 18, that he was five-foot-six and 130 pounds. His listed place of residence was Stony Mountain.
He left Canada on Oct. 4, 1916, went to England on Oct. 13, 1916, was shipped to France on May 4, 1917, and killed in action in France on Sept. 16, 1917.
Despite the wealth of history staff at Meighen Haddad LLP were able to uncover, they were unable to find a living relative to pass the medal on to.
That was, until Barber’s son-in-law, Mike Sloan — a pharmacist in Winnipeg — dug deeper online and discovered Eastwood.
Eastwood’s maternal great-grandmother, it turned out, was a sister to McConnell’s mother.
Relieved to have tracked down a living relative, Barber couriered the medal and associated research to Eastwood, who was happy to receive it.
He’s originally from Winnipeg and still has family connections in Manitoba between his wife and himself. They relocated to B.C. for professional reasons several decades ago.
A collector or war memorabilia, Eastwood said that he’d be sure to pass the medal on to his grandchildren as a means of keeping it in the family.
Eastwood has a collection of war memorabilia and other antiques on display in his notary public office and plans on adding the Memorial Cross.
The office is located in a suburb of Vancouver, which he describes as having a “small-town atmosphere,” so he anticipates sharing not only McConnell’s story to inquisitive clients, but also the story of how he came to possess the medal.
“To have someone do the amount of work they did in order to track me down, I was quite impressed.”
» Twitter: @TylerClarkeMB