Family remembers Sussex-area war veteran, century later
While taking part in the pilgrimage to Vimy Ridge in France, Emma Wallace found John H. Cook's gravesite in Pas de Calais.
Published Sunday, August 13, 2017 6:32PM ADT
Among the names chiseled on the stone of the community cenotaph in downtown Sussex, N.B., is local farm boy John Harold Cook, who still has family in the area 100 years after his death.
"His father died when he was younger so he took on that father role with his younger siblings I’m sure,” says Vimy Foundation scholar, Emma Wallace. “He went and did a year at Mount A., and he enlisted when he was 19 or 20, almost the same age as me, but very similar."
Wallace, 18, is Cook's great-great-great niece. This year, she was part of the pilgrimage to Vimy Ridge, but she also went searching through cemeteries elsewhere in France, looking for John Cook's gravesite.
Wallace found the gravesite in Pas de Calais.
"When I got there obviously it was very emotional, and, it was a really touching experience and they left me there alone for a few minutes, so that was very meaningful to me, and I’m very thankful that I got to go,” she says.
Cook grew up on a farm north of Sussex, in a small community called Carsonville. Like many other young men at the time, he left the farm behind and enlisted with New Brunswick’s 26th battalion.
On Aug. 26, 1917, he moved from the Vimy area to a place called Hill 70. During a ten day battle to take the hill, more than 9,000 Canadians were killed or wounded, including Cook.
His family says they are honouring his sacrifice a century later.
"Right now is the time because it's 100 years. And three generations later, you know, I don't think the family has still got over it,” says family member, Frank Robinson.
Robinson says dozens of families in the area suffered loss in the Great War, but he is encouraged that younger generations are getting involved.
"We’re the next generation, so it's our responsibility to remember. And even with my family that may be older than me, he's part of our family, he always will be, so I think it's our responsibility to remember him,” says Wallace.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Mike Cameron.