On the occasion of National Indigenous Peoples Day June 21st, Last Post Fund would like to share the story of the search for Algonquin Veteran Samuel “Sam” C. Gagnon. This story was brought to us by Stephen McGregor, who through his own care, perseverance and hard work, was able to finally bring dignified commemoration to this Veteran with the help of the Last Post Fund.
The search for Sam began in 1977, when Stephen came across an article about him in the Ottawa Citizen. Sam was a close relative of Stephen on his father’s side. When Stephen asked his father if he knew more about Sam, he replied that Sam had left for Alberta after the war and was never heard from again. With his curiosity piqued by Sam’s story, Stephen was determined to find him. The search would take 38 years.
He began by searching the telephone directories for districts in Alberta as well as the latest Legion Magazines, checking the Last Post section often, but had no luck in finding him there. Around 2003 he moved his search to the internet and began to actively search for Sam every second Saturday, sometimes searching for eight-hour sessions. He found nothing for 12 years – then, on Remembrance Day, 2015 Stephen was relaxing after a day of working to make the house winter-ready, when something told him he would finally find Sam.
Stephen felt the moment had come. “Something in my conscience told me: Go!” Stephen finally found an online trace of Sam at three in the morning of November 12, 2015: “Sam Gagnon, Great War Veteran, Algonquin, Alberta”. Stephen promptly followed up on this lead; finally it was a young woman from Barrhead Hospital in Alberta who was able to find Sam’s record based on the description Stephen provided: “He had a glass eye and his chest x-ray showed many heal points in every rib of his ribcage… wounds that he could have only suffered from a massive, violent trauma – like the German artillery shell that exploded at his feet at Passchendaele in 1917.”
Sam Gagnon died at Barrhead hospital in March 1965 and was buried at St. Anne’s cemetery in Barrhead, Alberta. He no longer had a marker, but the grave was still there. Luckily, Stephen contacted the Last Post Fund and we were able to provide Sam with a military marker.
With the list obtained from amateur historian Yann Castelnot of over 18,000 Indigenous Veterans who served in the Canadian Armed Forces, the Last Post Fund looks to honour Indigenous Veterans through the recently launched Indigenous Initiative. We are pleased to be working with dedicated researchers such as Stephen McGregor, who will be helping us identify the unmarked graves of Veterans from his community, Kitigan Zibi, Quebec.
PHOTO: courtesy of Stephen McGregor