Soldiers’ stories are a gift

Artist discusses meaning behind latest artwork for Empty Chair ceremony on Nov. 12

This painting was created as a tribute to the brave men aboard the Wellington Bomber BJ958.

This painting was created as a tribute to the brave men aboard the Wellington Bomber BJ958.

Many artists relate to their work on an emotional level.

For Joe Amato, an Edmonton artist who spent time on the Island, it’s also a way to give thanks.

Amato learned about the Legion and Rotary’s empty chair ceremony and wanted to be able to do something to honour those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.

“It’s the most touching thing I’ve ever heard of,” said Amato of the empty chair.

Last year, Amato donated a couple of Remembrance prints to a couple of people who were brought to Ladysmith from Ireland for the ceremony.

“It was the woman’s father who had been honoured.”

This year, Amato has inked a new painting for Frank Burrill, whose Wellington bomber was not to be seen again after a mission over Dusseldorf, Germany.

“I felt that because it was so moving and so important that each year I plan on creating an art image for that cause.”

Amato also wanted to thank David Walbank, the Rotarian and Legion member who has been giving his time to research local war heroes for the ceremony.

Following is Amato’s artists perspective on his work and how difficult it can be creating a piece like this.

In the Autumn of 2010 I met a man I shall never forget. The first thing your notice is his voice, gentle but strong. After that it’s honesty and sincerity. He really meant what he said, it was refreshing.

My parents taught me to believe that I should always give more than I take and David Walbank exemplifies that belief.

David lives in Ladysmith on Vancouver Island and is a proud member of the Rotary Club and the Royal Canadian Legion. He is also a veteran of WWII. Each year, as a part of the Remembrance Day Ceremony, David selects one of Ladysmith’s fallen soldiers from past military service, researches their life and writes a story about them. The story is presented to the people of Ladysmith at an event known as the Empty Chair Ceremony & Veterans’ Dinner. An empty chair is placed in front of the speaker in the local community hall and the fallen soldier is hownoured with a brief history of their life. It is as if the reader is speaking to the veteran who is no longer here except in our minds and our hearts.

Few events in my life have touched me as much as this. It is heart wrenching and profound and you feel so proud to be a part of it.

For David, I can only imagine the emotion he feels researching the life and death of a fellow veteran. While speaking with him about the fallen man, you can hear it in his voice, he is so sincere.

Last year, the Rotary Club and the Legion brought a lovely lady and her husband from Ireland to celebrate the sacrifice of her Canadian father who lost his life in Europe during WWII. She had never met her father.

The good people of Ladysmith let her know how much he meant to Canadians and brought her closer to her father, what a beautiful gift.

This year, the Empty Chair Ceremony honours a young man who lived in Ladysmith, joined the Airforce, served in Europe and while returning from a mission his plane went down; never to be heard from again. Once again David, the Rotary Club and the Legion will give this story to the people of Ladysmith and all Canadians.

It is an act of giving and kindness that is rarely seen today.

Thank you David, the Rotary Club and the Royal Canadian Legion for giving much more that you take. We will always remember.

Just Posted

The Crofton trailer park home where the bodies of two people were found. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Mom still waiting for answers after daughter and her fiance found dead in Crofton

Pair discovered dead in their Crofton home in May identified as Rachel Gardner and Paul Jenkins

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

CVRD to increase enforcement after audits reveal that curb-side recycling contamination in the district is well above acceptable limits. (File photo)
CVRD reports contamination in recyclables well above acceptable levels

Increased enforcement planned starting this summer

A conceptual rendering of the commercial plaza at 1130 Rocky Creek Road. (Town of Ladysmith/June 15 Council Agenda)
Rocky Creek commercial plaza passes public hearing

The proposed plaza at 1130 Rocky Creek Road would bring commercial activity to Ladysmith’s north end

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2020, file photo, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta. Nassib on Monday, June 21, 2021, became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. Nassib announced the news on Instagram, saying he was not doing it for the attention but because “I just think that representation and visibility are so important.” (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
Nassib becomes first active NFL player to come out as gay

More than a dozen NFL players have come out as gay after their careers were over

Penticton Indian Band Chief Greg Gabriel speaks to the Sacred Hearts Catholic Church burning down early Monday morning, June 21, 2021. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Penticton band chief condemns suspicious burning of 2 Catholic churches

Both Catholic church fires are deemed suspicious, says RCMP

COVID-19 daily cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day moving average to June 17, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections drop to 90 on Sunday, 45 Monday

Pandemic spread dwindles as 77% of adults receive vaccine

Emergency vehicles are parked outside of the Wintergreen Apartments on Fourth Avenue. (SUSAN QUINN / Alberni Valley News)
Port Alberni RCMP investigate stabbing on Fourth Avenue

Two men were found with ‘significant’ injuries near Wintergreen Apartments

By protesting uninvited in First Nations’ territories, conservationists are acting in a neocolonial or paternalistic manner, says Huu-ay-aht Chief Robert Dennis. Photo by Heather Thomson
A closer look: do Vancouver Island First Nations support the war in the woods?

First Nations/environmentalist old growth alliance uneasy, if it exists at all

Bernadette Jordan addresses the media following a swearing in ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on January 14, 2019. Jordan says the government will provide $2 million to allow First Nations to continue to strengthen the marine safety system across Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
First Nations receive federal funds to purchase marine rescue boats

Quatsino, Heiltsuk, and Kitasoo First Nation’s among eight across Canada to receive funding

A blood drive in support of 1-year-old Rielynn Gormley of Agassiz is scheduled for Monday, June 28 at Tzeachten First Nation Community Hall in Chilliwack. Rielynn lives with type 3 von Willebrand disease, which makes it difficult for her to stop bleeding. (Screenshot/Canadian Blood Services)
Upcoming blood drive in honour of Fraser Valley toddler with rare blood condition

The Gormley family has organized a blood drive in Chilliwack on June 28

One Reconciliation Pole and two Welcome Figures were unveiled during a ceremony in honour of truth and reconciliation on National Peoples Indigenous Day at the Vancouver School District in Vancouver, B.C., on Friday, June 21, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Horgan marks Indigenous Peoples Day by urging recognition of systemic racism

National Indigenous Peoples Day has been marked in Canada since 1996

Most Read