When Cyril Causey finally got back to Canada, he made a point to never look back.
It was 1945, the Second World War was over and tens of millions were dead.
Causey was loath to ever talk about his time as a Royal Canadian Air Force pilot, a role that saw him fly missions over the U.K. and other parts of northern Europe.
Two generations later, his granddaughter Lindsay Causey is doing that talking for him.
Causey is a Grade 3 teacher at Stratford Hall in East Vancouver. Around this time each year for the past decade, Causey has made a point of telling her students about Cyril’s life and the lives of others like him.
“My grandpa just didn’t want to talk about his service,” Causey said. “My grandma told me that he came back from World War 2 a changed person. He wasn’t the same. He obviously saw a lot of friends pass away and blood everywhere. He wanted to come back and live a normal life in Canada.”
Causey’s 20 students are now in the process of creating decorative poppies that will be given to dignitaries from across Europe and North America as part of a 24-hour Remembrance Day ceremony at Mountainview Cemetery that runs Nov. 10 and 11. A handful of Causey’s students will also attend the ceremony and present those poppies to consul generals from France, Belgium and Holland who’ll be on hand to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day.
The portion of cemetery known as Jones 45 is the final resting place at Mountainview for roughly 4,000 military personnel who died in the First World War. Causey’s great grandfather Fredrick fought in the Great War and the Boer War before that. He survived both and Causey has medals, photos and records documenting three generations’ worth of her family’s service and sacrifice.
“I have that connection and that drives me to share it with my students,” she said. “I want them to know about history. It’s important for them to know about their family history, but it’s also important to know about Canadian history.”
Guy Black is a Canadian Forces Reserves veteran and longtime advocate for veterans across Canada. He’s organizing the Mountainview ceremony alongside help from volunteers from the U.S. and across Metro Vancouver and Vancouver Island.
That team of volunteers has spent the last 18 months building more than 6,000 ornamental poppies that will be placed throughout Mountainview. The poppies are made of foam and stand roughly a foot and a half in height. One will be placed next to each grave of 4,000 First World War veterans interred at Mountainview. After Remembrance Day, the poppies will be moved over to Vancouver Island for a similar ceremony in the future.
“Two things are key for this type of event — the location and the poppy. If I did a presentation like this at a school, maybe the kids don’t get the message,” Black said. “But if you’re standing in the middle of a cemetery surrounded by graves, I think that’s very strong and very direct. And then the poppy itself is directly linked to one of those graves of a veteran.”
The ceremony begins at 2:45 p.m. on Nov. 10 with a parade through the cemetery, followed by speeches and placement of the decorative poppies. As night falls, 100 candles will be placed throughout Jones 45 as a piper from the Seaforth Highlanders performs “Amazing Grace.”
Rotating, uniformed sentries will then stand guard in 15-minute intervals until the following day, when a Remembrance Day ceremony begins at 11 a.m.
“I hope [my students] develop a sense of appreciation and respect for the men and women that risked their lives in conflicts like World War 1,” Causey said. “And I hope they appreciate the safety, freedom and opportunities that they enjoy as a result of those sacrifices.”