A longtime voice for veterans and the legion in Maple Ridge has fallen silent.
Jim MacDonald, president of Branch 88 of the Royal Canadian Legion in Maple Ridge, has died, the legion said on its website Tuesday.
“It is with much sorrow that we inform you of the passing of the president of Branch 88, Comrade James MacDonald,” said the legion.
“His loss will be felt by the entire Ridge Meadows community, particularly here at the legion he served so well.”
MacDonald, 79, had just been heavily involved in this month’s Remembrance Day ceremonies, presenting the first poppy of this year’s campaign to Mayor Mike Morden and saying last week he was elated to share the results of a record-breaking poppy drive.
Fred Armstrong, manager of community engagement and relations with the City of Maple Ridge, said he hired MacDonald as a sales representative in the 1990s when Armstrong was publisher of the Maple Ridge Times. MacDonald had previously worked in marketing and promotions at the Vancouver Sun.
“I can’t even describe how sad it was,” said Armstrong of MacDonald’s death. “He was just a gem of a person, he’d forgotten more stuff than most people knew.” He had a range of background knowledge about anything, Armstrong added.
Armstrong said that MacDonald helped with the founding of the Bell Irving fish hatchery in Kanaka Creek Regional Park and travelled to Japan to explain such projects because he spoke Japanese.
And MacDonald was on the legion executive for years. “He was just a fixture there. He put in so many hours at the legion,” Armstrong added.
MacDonald also attended the ceremonies in Memorial Peace Park, saying this year’s attendance was the largest crowd he’d seen.
“There wasn’t a place that was empty. It was just jammed,” MacDonald said on Remembrance Day. That was the story everywhere, he added.
“They figured it was going to be a record turnout across Canada, and it was.”
He added that people may be recognizing that the number of veterans from the Second World War is declining.
MacDonald was looking forward to the celebrations next spring marking the Canadian liberation of Holland in the Second World War.