Army vet, editorial cartoon pioneer takes salute

Army vet, editorial cartoon pioneer takes salute

A legendary cartoonist and Second World War veteran came back to his former home town Monday to take in this year’s Remembrance Day ceremonies.

Ernie Poignant took the final salute as veterans marched past the podium on 224th Street in downtown Maple Ridge at the end of the formalities.

Poignant turned 100 this year and made the trip from his current residence in Abbotsford.

“It’s beyond words. It humbles me so much,” Poignant said Monday of his ceremonial duties.

Poignant is a former long-time resident of Maple Ridge and member of the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 88.

He served in the Canadian army from 1944 to 1946, with postings in Vancouver, Nanaimo, Victoria, and in late 1944, in Camp Borden near Barrie, Ont. His duties there included exploding mortars during training exercises which permanently damaged his hearing.

He also worked as a civilian mechanic at the No. 24 Elementary Flying Training School at Abbotsford Airport from 1943 to 1944.

After the war, he started his journalism career, and in 1958, moved to Maple Ridge as compositor and cartoonist for the Maple Ridge Gazette. He moved to Abbotsford in 2003 and continued drawing cartoons for the Abbotsford Times and worked with the local museum, turning the stories of pioneers into cartoons.

In 1994, many of his cartoons were printed in a booklet called People, Pencil and Paper, when he was 75. He published another in 2013, titled Poignant Moments. While he’s now 100 years old, Poignant is still producing, this year publishing his third book, “Welcome to the Past.”

“We had very good years in Maple Ridge. We loved it,” said Poignant.

“It’s always nice to honour a Second World War veteran,” said Legion president Jim MacDonald, who said Poignant has been a member of the Maple Ridge branch for years.

Monday’s ceremonies were larger than usual, he said. “There wasn’t a place that was empty. It was just jammed,” said MacDonald. That was the story everywhere, he added.

“They figured it was going to be a record turnout across Canada, and it was,” he said, adding that people may be recognizing that the number of veterans from the Second World War is declining.

Ryan McDonald and Katie FitzGerald brought their 1st Laity View Beaver troupe out to see the ceremony.

McDonald said that Remembrance Day is reviewed with the kids before they see the ceremony. Many now don’t have any direct family members who were veterans so seeing the ceremony is a good way to learn about the day, McDonald said.

FitzGerald added that the good weather seemed to have brought out more spectators.

Don Purdy served with the Canadian military for 23 years said he was proud of the event and noted the younger generation seemed to be attending as well.

Purdy was stationed in West Germany when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, 30 years ago, adding he’s kept a piece of the structure.

Ron Baker, of Maple Ridge, participated in the parade by bringing his M-16 half track, fitted with two, 50-calibre machine guns, one of a succession of wartime vehicles in the parade.

Asked why he restored the vehicle, Baker said, “Because I enjoy keeping history alive. There are so many people trying to erase history and that’s just ridiculous. This here … keeps the memories of the guys who lived in these things, going.”

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