Lost, but not forgotten

After two years of perseverance, a Kelowna veteran will honour a comrade he never met.

Al Schmidt was visiting the cenotaph at Lions Park in Rutland in 2015 when a soldier’s name – Pt. James Eastwood – caught his eye.

While the name wasn’t familiar, it was how it was listed that struck Schmidt as odd. The name had no listed battalion, dates, or information about where he died – just his name.

Schmidt set out to find some answers. Why was there no information listed? Where did he live? What war did he serve in?

After a year and a half of searching, his inquiry eventually landed with City of Kelowna cemetery manager David Gatzke.

“There was something truly inspiring about the effort that Al Schmidt put in to recognize this soldier, someone he never even knew,” said Gatzke. “When he walked in to my office carrying a two-inch folder filled with documentation of his attempts at finding out why the information was missing for this soldier, you could tell there was a connection that only a veteran could fully understand.”

Working closely with the Legion, Army, Navy and Air Force Veterans, Veteran Affairs Canada and the Okanagan Military Museum, the two delved into the mystery.

James Eastwood, a Kelowna resident and millwright, was 33 when he enlisted in 1914. He served primarily with the 15th Battalion in France and was killed in action at Vimy Ridge on April 9, 1917.  He is buried at the Nine Elms Military Cemetery in Vimy, France. 

“Once we had the information and started to focus on making sure all the details where included, everyone jumped on board,” said Gatzke. “We ordered the marker. Jim McCaffery, the president of the local Legion, made a petition to the Legion’s Poppy Fund to purchase the new bronze marker, and Parks Services took care of the installation.”

– By Lisa Reuther

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